By Nick Giannandrea
Jeff Schofield, who directed the deepest postseason run of any prep basketball team from Tulare and Kings counties this past season, is looking forward to one more game with the core of his Dinuba High boys team.
Schofield will coach the Tulare County boys -- featuring Emperors' Sebastian Garza, Luke Rodriguez and John Calderon -- during Saturday's Tulare/Kings All-Star basketball games at College of the Sequoias' Porter Field House.
The girls game is scheduled to tip off at 5 p.m. with the boys following at 7 p.m. Tickets, good for both games, are $10 for adults and $5 for students and seniors.
"That's the coolest part about coaching in a game like this, having your kids represent their school one last time," Schofield said. "It's exciting for us to get a few of our seniors back together for another game, and to compete with some of these kids that we've competed against. It's nice to have them on our side for a game."
Schofield was asked to coach in the Tulare/Kings All-Star game after leading Dinuba to the California Interscholastic Federation's Northern California Regional final in Division V, and a runner-up finish in the Central Section's Division III.
The Emperors were denied a berth in the state finals following an 80-56 loss to Mt. Shasta on March 5, capping a 29-7 season.
"We had a little rough patch in our league, which had a lot of good teams," Schofield said. "But we told them if we stayed together, we could put together a special run. They guys really stepped up. It was a heck of a lot of fun."
Schofield will get to coach Central Sequoia League nemesis Grant Highstreet (who averaged 18.9 points and 13.2 rebounds per game) and Jarren Myers of Central Valley Christian as well as Mt. Whitney's dynamic duo of Jaedyn Pineda (15.7 ppg, 6.1 rpg, 4.3 apg, 3.7 spg) and Anthony Valencia (17.2 ppg, 9.0 rpg).
The Tulare County boys also feature El Diamante's Lorenzo Quintana, Golden West's Casey Hall, Redwood's Alex Garrett, Strathmore's Josue Topete, Farmersville's Raymond Paramo.
"We're keeping things pretty basic," Schofield said. "We want the kids to go out and play and not think too much. Play hard, share the ball, and when they are open, shoot it."
Lemoore's Joe'l Sligh is set to coach the Kings County boys, and he'll have point guard Jayden Bray (7.5 ppg, 3.6 apg) and forward Juelien Fox (11.6 ppg, 7.0 rpg) from a Tigers' team that won the West Yosemite League title and finished 19-8 overall.
Exeter's Blake Crookshanks (18.0 ppg, 13.4 rpg, 3.0 bpg), Sierra Pacific's Jayson Littlejohn (14.5 ppg, 12.9 rpg) and Mission Oaks' Eric Hernandez (17.2 ppg, 5.7 rpg) also headline the Kings County team, whose roster also includes Hanford West's Jayron Jenkins, Hanford's Carson Verhoeven, Granite Hills' Abraham Gabinete, Tulare Western's Anthony Cervantes, Monache's Cooper Martin and Porterville's Kaden Ramage and Colton Boyd.
The girls game will feature the section's second-, fifth- and eighth-leading scorers among statistics kept on Maxpreps.com in Tulare Union's Kiara Brown (22.9 ppg), Granite Hill's Yvette Felipe (19.9 ppg) and McFarland's Neli Diaz (18.9 ppg).
Brown is on the Tulare County team being coached by Redwood's Jason Black, while Felipe and Diaz are paying for the Kings County team coached by Hanford West's Torreya Edwards.
"It's going to be really good to coach Brown," Black said. "She dominated down low this season. I've coached smaller teams the last couple of years, so it will be nice to have some post play."
Black has three of his players from Redwood -- Kalista Gamez, Clarissa Chavez and Savannah Surfus -- on his 12-player roster along with Exeter's Zoie Belk and Franki Velasquez, Mission Oak's Jada Muller and Kayleigh Lopez, Golden West's Savannah Jimenez, El Diamante's Lucy Tazio (13.7 ppg, 5.8 rpg), Tulare Union's Vivaca Gonzales (11.4 ppg, 5.6 rpg) and Mt. Whitney's Caitlyn Caruthers.
"I'm just going to let everyone participate and give each kid a chance to showcase their skill set," Black said. "I want to play fast as always, attack the rim, and I want the kids to have fun."
In addition to Felipe and Diaz, who led McFarland of Kern County to a CIF State Division III runner-up finish, the Kings County team will feature Hanford's Sappire Jones (12.8 ppg, 7.1 rpg, 3.8 spg), Granite Hill's Marina Marin, Lemoore's Janay Avalos, Monache's Mona Pengilly (10.8 ppg, 8.4 rpg) and Madisyn Baxter, and Corcoran's Mona Vargas and Crystal Gonzalez.
The All-Star games are run by College of the Sequoias women's basketball coach Ray Alvarado and Hanford boys assistant Tim Caudillo.
"This game is for the fans to see these kids play one last time, and play with those who were once their rivals and are now teammates for a night," Alvarado said. "It would be nice to see everyone come and support their respective high schools one more time."