The Union Mine High varsity girls basketball team traveled to El Dorado Friday night, beating the intra-county rival and Sierra Valley Conference foe Cougars 56-32.
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The Diamondbacks (3-2, 16-4) took an aggressive tempo early in the game and maintained momentum through all four quarters, building on a foundation of smart passing and court awareness. Senior Madison Aliff was in absolute form, netting a game-high 21 points that included a trio of three-pointers. Fellow senior Kimee Mueller gave a stellar supporting performance with 13 points, shooting 5-for-6 from the free-throw line.
“We’re playing well now,” D’Backs head coach Chris Del Rio said. “This is the year we thought we’d be able to find good success and the seniors as well as the rest of the team — they’ve earned this success and deserve to enjoy it.”
For El Dorado (1-4, 4-11), there was no lack of enthusiasm or heart in playing Union Mine at home. The Cougars have enjoyed consecutive title-winning seasons the past few years and are working to find consistency and rhythm with a group of players that are adjusting to a different dynamic this season.
Cougars head coach Pat Winter, who has helped grow the program through thick and thin, looked at the game through a matter-of-fact lens, giving credit to El Dorado’s efforts despite the loss.
“For me, the biggest thing is that if you’re out there playing as hard as you can and giving it your best, I don’t have anything to complain about,” Winter said. “I think with the large crowd and that added intensity in playing Union Mine, our team tended to shy away from the spotlight instead of embracing it.”
Statistically, El Dorado exceeded its scoring average this season; the Cougars have averaged just over 28 points per game. Hannah Dixon had a team-high 10 points, while Maddie Zuber contributed seven and pulled down 11 rebounds via strong efforts on both ends of the court.
Contributing in scoring for Union Mine were Sonya Watson, who finished with eight points, and teammate Alex Smith, who had four points.
Shelby Ganzert, Jessica Jemmott, Stephanie Preacher and Gina Somara had three points each while Sabrina Tate, Rebecca McCauaghey, Savannah Scott, Trisha Tolbert, Deyanira Ventura and Kathleen Cambridge contributed two points apiece. Yvonne Taylor contributed a point to round out the scoring for Union Mine.
Moving forward, coaches from both sides expressed immediate plans to improve and prepare the next half of the schedule.
This year’s Diamondback crew hopes to be the first girls basketball program from Union Mine to finish with 20 wins. With 16 wins now and eight games to play, that’s a goal well within the grasp of this year’s squad.
Winter and the Cougars are looking to take that heart and dedication and translate it into fluid fundamental basketball.
“Right now I’ve got girls who are willing to learn and work hard,” Winter said, “We’re going to keep at it, continue to get better and find out those things we excel at and hopefully we can finish in a positive way.”