By allowing ads to appear on this site, you support the local businesses who, in turn, support great journalism.
PREP ROUNDUP: Hilmar coach Keaton makes return to alma mater in Thursday-night clash
Hilmar Boys basketball 1
Senior McKade Jensen takes the ball down the court during the Hilmar Christmas Classic (COLBY GOMES/The Journal).

Coming off the annual Hilmar Christmas Classic, Yellowjackets boys basketball coach Austin Keaton will lead his team into its final non-conference game before the breaking for the holiday.

This game, Thursday at Pitman, will be a homecoming of sorts for Keaton and his coaching staff of Derek Louis, Jason Pervaiz and Nic Romeo — all are graduates of Pitman High School.

“It’s going to be exciting, to say the least,” said Keaton, a 2008 graduate of PHS. “It’s a fun opportunity for me and my three assistants. It’ll be a fun environment for both sides.”

Hilmar, 6-7, is coming off three straight losses at the Hilmar tournament, falling 66-39 to eventual champion Los Banos, 69-52 to runner-up Orestimba, and 63-55 to Summerville. 

“We’re building for the future,” said Keaton. “That sounds weird to say when we’ve got nine seniors, but we’re trying to change the culture.”

While Keaton figures it will be odd to be considered a foe in what was once his home gym, the Pride’s Brock Fanconi will find it weird to compete against Keaton, who has served as his mentor as he’s battled back from a second ACL injury.

“Oh, definitely,” said Fanconi, a 5-10 senior who injured his left knee in the summer before his sophomore season and then again at the beginning of his junior campaign. “He’s kind of guided me in athletics and mentally. He understands what it’s like to be an athlete and play at a high level.

“It’s going to be awesome having him there at my games again. It’ll be a good experience.”

Keaton also coached Fanconi when the guard was in junior high school.
“He coached me when I was in the seventh and eighth grade,” said Fanconi, whose team entered Tuesday night’s game against Tokay with a 9-3 record. “I asked Coach (Harvey) Marable about him and he had nothing but good things to say about him.”

After graduating from Pitman, Keaton would go on to play at Modesto JC and at Culver-Stockton College in Canton, Missouri. He would earn NAIA All-American honors during his senior season.

Aside from Fanconi, not many Pitman High players will know that Keaton was one of the best players to come out of Pitman.

“Oh, I can attest to that,” said Keaton. “The odds are slim to none that any of their players know who I am.”



Bulldogs defeat Bears ahead of Holiday Hoops Classic

Turlock High went on a 20-0 run spread over the third and fourth quarters and went on to defeat Merced High 63-46 in a non-conference boys basketball game on Tuesday at Bulldog Arena.

With the victory, Turlock improves to 8-4, while the Bears dip to 6-5.

“I think we just wore them down a little bit,” said THS coach Nick Nathanson, whose team’s next stop is the annual 16-team, four-day Modesto Christian Holiday Hoops Classic, one of the most prestigious tournaments in Northern California. “I don’t know how many threes they had in the first half … seven, eight, nine? But I knew they couldn’t sustain it. We kind of kept waiting to pull away in the third quarter and we were finally able to.”

The Bears hit seven three-pointers in the first half and led 33-27 at the break. Merced led 37-32 midway through the third quarter when the Bulldogs took over.

Turlock’s 6-foot-7 senior Gavin Cox, who led all scorers with 26 points, scored with 2:54 remaining in the third to tie the score 37-37.

The Bears would not score for the next six minutes, as cold shooting and turnovers allowed the Bulldogs to ignite their transition game and race to a 52-37 advantage.

A free throw by Merced’s Aiden Cervantes ended the drought.

“They definitely wore us down,” said Merced head coach Adrian Sanchez. “It’s a 32-minute game, not 12 or 18 or 20. Some bad shots by us and turnovers allowed them to push the ball.”

Turlock closed the game on a 31-9 run.

In addition to Cox’s 26 points, senior point guard Jed Ladine scored 13 while Jordan Williams added 12 — all coming via three-pointers.

Cervantes led the Bears with 17.

Turlock will open play in the Holiday Hoops Classic with a 2:30 p.m. contest against Campolindo (Moraga) on Tuesday. The Bulldogs will play either Clovis East or Edison (Stockton) in the second round on Wednesday. Other first-round games include: Clovis West (Fresno) vs. Gregori 10 a.m.; Clovis East vs. Edison (Stockton), 11:30 a.m.; Cosumnes Oaks (Elk Grove) vs. Northgate (Walnut Creek), 1 p.m.; Weston Ranch (Stockton) vs. Bullard (Fresno), 4 p.m.; Vanden (Fairfield) vs. Pleasant Valley (Chico), 5:30 p.m.; Downey vs. Modesto Christian, 7 p.m.; Manteca vs. Ripon Christian, 8:30 p.m.