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Playoff Action For Both Boys, Girls Hoops
JV Bruin Neo Aguiniga (11) goes up for two against a Hilmar defender on Tuesday, Feb. 17, at home, the final game of the season. The JV Bruins came away with the victory, 60-46, with the freshman and varsity team posting wins as well. Ric McGinnis/The News

The Riverbank boys basketball program provided three exciting home court wins to finish out the Trans-Valley League season with a flourish this past week. On the same day, Feb. 17, the varsity Lady Bruins basketball team clinched a league title by winning their last game on the road.

Both teams headed to first round Sac-Joaquin Division IV section playoff games; the varsity boys hosted a ‘play in’ game on Friday night, falling to visiting Highlands. The girls were scheduled to travel to Sonora for a first round game Tuesday night (Feb. 24) after The News went to press.

In the final week, though, the boys teams provided a treat for the home crowd with the sweep of Hilmar.

The varsity Bruin boys brought their league record to 6-4, propelling them to post-season play, with a 63-52 win over the Yellowjackets. At the half, Riverbank had the slimmest of leads, 28-26, but finished the third period ahead 46-41.

Riverbank’s freshman Bruins won 52-33, while the JV boys came back from a 28-20 halftime deficit to win strong, 60-46.

On Friday night, the varsity hosted the Sac-Joaquin Division IV ‘play-in’ game (similar to a wild card) that brought the 18th ranked Scots of Highland High School in Sacramento to 15th ranked Riverbank’s home court.

Riverbank led 12-8 at the end of a slow-moving first quarter and maintained a thin, 38-37 edge at the end of the half. By the end of the third frame, the margin remained the same but the advantage shifted to Highland, 63-62.

A tense fourth quarter saw leads as much as five or six points evaporate on both sides, changing hands as often as the ball did. In the end, the game went to the Scots, 86-84, and another season was in the books for the Bruins.

High points for the game for the Bruins were brothers Ylii Lopez, a senior, and Wolfgang Lopez, a junior, who combined for 50 points between them in the Riverbank effort.

“I was happy overall with our season,” said coach Jeff Jennings. “In my 19 years as the varsity head coach I have never had a team go through more adversity than this one. Our preseason schedule was one of the toughest in our area and league this year was the toughest top to bottom that I’ve seen in a while so for us to finish tied for second and make the playoffs is an accomplishment I’m very proud of.”

The varsity boys went 4-1 with a two-point loss at Ripon the second half of league in order to make the playoffs.

“I was disappointed that we had a play-in game being the 15th seed but I loved the fact that we had a home game because our crowd and support were awesome,” Jennings added. “It was a heckuva game and we had our chances to win. Unfortunately like most of our season we played without two key players. We never made excuses or pouted about it and we played our hearts out.”

Kory Gilbert was out with a broken toe and Vincent Meras tried to play but could barely move due to extreme pain in his knees, said Jennings.

“We are graduating some awesome young men. They have represented Riverbank basketball for the past for years and every single one of them will be going on to further their education. I can’t be more proud of them.

“It was definitely tough graduating all five starters but I truly believe that if we were healthy and had our whole team all season long we would have competed for a league title and a home playoff game but despite that we had a truly successful season.”


Varsity Girls

The varsity girls closed out their season with a 62-38 victory at Hilmar on Tuesday, Feb. 17, posting a 9-1 Trans-Valley League record and claiming the TVL championship. The win sent the Lady Bruins to Sonora for its divisional playoff on Tuesday, Feb. 24, after The News went to press. If successful there, the Riverbank girls would play a quarterfinal game at the winner of the Bradshaw Christian-Orestimba game. Semi-finals on the girls’ side of the Section playoff bracket follow on March 4 with the championship game March 7 at Sleep Train Arena in Sacramento.