Seaside led only once but never trailed by more than 12 in the close knit league game. The Balers, though, withstood any Spartan run to hold onto the 56-50 victory.
The win props the Balers as the top team in the MBL’s Gabilan Division standings with eight games remaining. San Benito is now 14-2 overall and 4-0 inside league play with a rematch against Palma upcoming Wednesday.
“This is a huge win,” SBHS junior Hyram Miskin said. “Going into this game we knew that it would roll us into Palma. That’s a huge win for us. It will get us motivated for Palma. We are No. 1 right now and It just boost the confidence of the team really.”
The game started out slow for both teams on the floor, as neither squad could find a good shot. The Balers hit only four of its 14 opening-quarter shots, but limited the Spartans even more. Seaside’s Ronald Turner struggled from the floor, as the Balers’ Robert Henderson caused issues with is length.
Turner missed his first seven shots of the game – including six in the first quarter – as Seaside was forced to rely on Kyle Heib, who scored 14 of the Spartans’ 19 first half points. Heib was slowed in the second half and finished with 19 points.
“With our defense, we are going to be in some games,” SBHS head coach David Kaplansky said. “They made some uncontested threes from pretty deep but as a coach I was stressing them to force them to shoot that. But you have to adjust. The first half, (Heib) was really shooting well and in the second half it was (Michael) Turner. We went back to the man, to finish off the game. If anything we gave up too many easy shoots in our zone.”
For the Balers, the offensive production was spread throughout the lineup. Five scorers contributed in the first half – nobody scored more than Michael Breen’s six points – to help lift SBHS to a 22-19 halftime lead.
In the second half, both offensives found their grooves.
Behind 10 third-quarter points from Hyram Miskin – and two 3-pointers by Tony Diaz – San Benito raced out to a large second half lead by building a 12-point cushion.
Despite battle the flu, Diaz opened the quarter with back-to-back threes as Seaside pulled to within two of the Balers. The 3-pointers caused the gym to erupt as the momentum switched to San Benito.
“I was just trying to go in there and do my thing,” said Diaz, who finished with 11 points. “I don’t get a lot of opportunities and I just wanted to show what I had and the worst thing was I was sick.”
The Balers rode that momentum until midway through the final quarter. With San Benito holding 12 point lead, Seaside made its move. Relying on Michael Turner, who scored 10 of his 12 points in the second half, and Chris Evans, who added nine second-half points, Seaside pulled to within two points with a minute remaining.
With a chance to tie or take the lead with less than 40 seconds left, Seaside was forced into three consecutive bad shots as the Baler defense withstood the onslaught. It was the last quality chance Seaside had as SBHS Brian Becerra closed the game with three free throws.
“They are the best team in the league by far with Noah (Allen of Palma) out,” Kaplansky said. “They do a lot things that other teams can’t do. I was surprised they didn’t pressure us until late. I was just glad but I would like to finish the game a lot better. I though we made our free throws at the end. It was a tale of two halves.”
San Benito finished with four players with nine or more points. Miskin led the Balers with a game-high 13 points. Tonascia finished with 11 points and Henderson scored nine points.
The Balers season continues at 7 p.m. Wednesday when they travel to Palma. The Chieftains defeated the Balers 80-41 on Dec. 22 in the final game of the Scattini Memorial Tournament.