The incredible post season run for the Dinuba High boys basketball team came to a close as the Emperors lost, 80-56, to top-seeded Mt. Shasta late Tuesday night in the Northern California Regional Division V Championship game.

The Emperors finish the season with a 27-9 overall record while the Bears improved to 33-1 and will face Foothill-Bakersfield for the Div. V state crown.

Behind six 3-pointers from Josh Magaña, Dinuba took a 23-17 first quarter lead. The Bears eventually caught the Emperors in the 2nd quarter and went into the half up 36-33. Mt. Shasta used a 19-2 run to close out the third for a 64-43 lead.

Dinuba reached the championship game in thrilling fashion.

Down 66-63, Luke Rodriguez took an inbound pass from Sebastian Garza and rattled in a deep corner 3-pointer while being closely guarded by Lincoln High’s Shakur Blaylock tying the game and forcing overtime.

From there the Emperors took control early and sealed the game behind clutch free throw shooting from Jonathan Calderon for a 78-73 NorCal Regional Division V semifinals win.

“Luke’s shot is what a lot of people will remember for a long time,” said coach Jeff Schofield. “Coach Tim Rico drew up a beautiful play in the time out and the boys executed it nicely.”

Schofield noted that Garza did a nice job at giving the play time to develop.

Garza opened the overtime with a 3-pointer and was followed by two free throws from Calderon for a 71-66 lead. Rodriguez pushed the lead to nine points on another 3 before Lincoln scored on a 3 from sophomore guard Joseph Fox. The Mustangs cut the lead to 74-71 on a layup by Shakur Blaylock with 1:40. The Emperors answered with an inside basket from Calderon off an assist from Garza before Lincoln’s Pajri Samhi made 2 of 3 free throws to make it a one possession game with 22 seconds remaining. Calderon, who finished the game with nine points, was then fouled and made both his free throws to seal the game.

“We shot well from the free throw line (17/22) including 4/4 from John,” Schofield said. “John has been playing great.”

Ahead 30-26 at the half, Dinuba increased its lead to 36-26 on a pair of 3’s from Magaña. The Emperors would stay ahead of Lincoln until the Mustangs cut the deficit to 51-43 on a late 3 by Gabino Valdivia, setting the stage for a wild fourth quarter.

A 3 by Joseph Fox cut the lead to 51-46 before a steal and a basket by Jacob Rodriguez pushed the lead back to 53-46. The Mustangs then went on an 8-0 run with back-to-back 3’s from Blaylock and Fox, whose layup trimmed the lead to 55-54 with 5:44.

Rodriguez stopped the run with a short jumper and Isaak Flores’ basket moved the Emperors ahead 59-54.  Fox then drained a 3 that was answered by a layup from Elias Flores before Fox nailed his fourth 3 in the quarter with 3:20. In a see-saw battle, the Mustangs took a 62-61 lead on a rebound basket by Fox with under 2:10. Jacob Rodriguez’s two free throws moved DHS back in front 63-62 only to have Lincoln go back up 64-63 on a rebound basket from Samhi. With 18 seconds remaining, the Mustangs had their largest lead of the game on a pair of free throws by guard Jordan Aquino, 66-63.

Dinuba got out to a quick start and led 16-13 after the end of the first quarter. The Emperors led by as many as five points before the Mustangs tied the game at 22 on a 3 by Jordan Aquino. Lincoln went ahead 24-22 on a bucket by Zev Curiel-Friedmanl. DHS went back up before the half as E. Flores scored five consecutive points.

Rodriguez led all scorers with 23 points and Magaña had 12. E. Flores and Calderon had nine points apiece while I. Flores and J. Rodriguez chipped in eight points each.

On Thursday evening, Dinuba posted a 62-49 home win over Argonaut as the Emperors outscored the Mustangs, 21-11, in the 4th.

Dinuba opened the 4th with a pair of 3’s from L. Rodriguez and E. Flores for a seven point lead, 47-40. L. Rodriguez then converted a pair of free throws after a technical foul was called on Argonaut’s Westleigh King. The lead grew to 52-40 on back-to-back layups by L. Rodriguez and E. Flores.

The Mustangs could not draw any closer as L. Rodriguez made four straight free throws down the stretch to secure the win in front a packed gymnasium.

Dinuba had trailed Argonaut in the first quarter, 11-6, as the only points scored for the Emperors were 3’s by E. Flores and L. Rodriguez. The Mustangs pushed the lead to 20-11 and DHS responded behind a quick 7-0 run capped off by a layup by I. Flores. Down 22-18, Calderon helped the Emperors tie the game at the half with consecutive baskets.

In the third quarter, Dinuba got hot from the outside as the Emperors drained five 3’s one each from L. Rodriguez, E. Flores and I. Flores while Garza made a pair including one with under 30 seconds for a 41-36 lead.

L. Rodriguez had 28 points for DHS.

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