Denair and Turlock Christian High basketball teams are familiar with each other, especially since they are only separated by approximately 2.2 miles on the same road. This closeness has led to a friendly rivalry in athletics over the last decade, and more recently with the boys basketball teams.
The teams exemplified this exciting rivalry when they kicked off the season on Tuesday with a game that went back and forth. However, the Coyotes managed to overcome a late push by the Eagles to win it 64-59.
“It was a competitive game. This is also our natural rivalry, even though they are not in the same league, still wish they were, but very competitive,” said Denair head coach RJ Henderson. “We have a good mixture of youth and some returning players that were all-league or honorable mention type players.”
“I think our effort was outstanding,” said TC's first year head coach Don Muniz. “In this game with Denair they killed us on the defensive boards, that is what we talked about after. But with effort I couldn't be prouder of these guys.”
Muniz takes over a squad that finished the year with a CCAA record of 6-8 and an overall posting of 8-19.
He is bringing in a confident style of basketball and knows exactly what it will take to bring in a wave of success for the upcoming years.
It also helps that his squad has experience and is talented, led by a wealth of returners that include Eli Roos and Max Tyson.
Look for Zack Silva, Drake Maliepaard and Micah Blomenkamp to assist the team along with baseball standouts Ryan Leonesio and Markie Delgadillo.
“In a short amount of time, our guys are believing in it and picking it up, not like a lot of schools that have been going all summer,” said Muniz. “Our motto is we get better every day. We walk in that gym and when we leave we are better than we were when we walked in, that is how I want us to look at it.”
Henderson and his team for the upcoming year of nine strong will be eager to deny in the SAL, especially since they are led by one of the best in the league in all-league player last year Drew Pritchard.
Steffin Winston will be another leader and captain while 6-foot-5 Dylan Mann is back as the double-double connoisseur for the Coyotes and should provide stability in the paint.
“Drew has shown a lot of maturity for a junior, which is nice to have,” said Henderson of Pritchard. “We have a tremendous nucleus of young guys. Ben Mcguire is a transfer from Turlock High; he can really score it and Elvis Silva plays great defense. Hopefully, we compete here in the next couple of months when we go into league.”
At the moment, the Coyotes’ mentality is taking it one game at a time, despite the amount of individual talent on the roster.
“The people that are returning have set goals that I have not heard here in a while,” Henderson added. “They want to play additional games in February. Our goals for the remainder of our preseason games are to peak, and try to hold home court and pick up a couple wins on the road and see where it takes it.”
The next game for TC will be on the road at Delta at 7 p.m. Friday.
“I want to win league,” Muniz added. “I know Elliot Christian is good and Brookside, but the more time we spend together we will keep peaking. I see good things. Playoffs for sure, that is our goal and bring this program up to where people will start to recognize Turlock Christian.”
Denair's next game will be at Hilmar at 7 p.m. Tuesday.