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Late free throws secure win for Hilmar
Hilmars Brock Tate completes a shot for the Yellowjackets during their game against Gustine Thursday evening. - photo by CANDY PADILLA / The Journal

Hilmar (5-3) High’s varsity boys basketball team is only getting better as the season carries on.

Gustine (7-5) got hot in the fourth quarter, but Hilmar was able to make critical baskets down the stretch as the Yellowjackets won the first of three games in their Holiday Tournament opener on Thursday night.

Nick Olvera scored a team-high 16 points and Kole Gaglio finished with 15 points as the ‘Jackets made 10 of 12 free throws down the stretch in the fourth, holding off Gustine’s hot hand in the final minutes to secure the 62-57 victory.

“We pulled out the victory tonight, but it was a tougher game than we thought,” said Hilmar head coach Paul Willis. “Gustine played well, they were on fire in the fourth, but we made a good effort to win it.”

Despite going down 18-9 in the first quarter, Hilmar was able to distribute the ball effectively around the floor.

The ‘Jackets outscored Gustine 23-11 in the second and held a 10-point lead by halftime before both played a stalemate third.

“Gustine hit some big buckets near the end, they are a good team,” said Willis.

Gustine made five three-point shots in the fourth quarter alone after being down 41-36 by the end of third.

Gaglio scored 9 of his 15 points in the fourth quarter alone and the team’s efficiency from the line helped secure the ‘Jackets' second straight victory after losing two straight in the Pacific Grove Tournament last weekend.

Nino Ta-a added 8 points for the game and Alec Cano finished with 9 points for the game.

“Good balanced scoring, but Nick and Kole gave us the edge when we needed it tonight,” said Willis. “Great passes and timely free throws were big for us. That is what you need, especially in the fourth when the game is on the line to keep the lead,  when they make the shot and we did.”

Next, Hilmar will take on Los Banos at 8:30 p.m. tonight.