Mt. Whitney faced a big problem in East Bakersfield's Fatain Eke, who clogged up the lane with his 6-6 frame.
But the Pioneers (10-8, 3-2) eventually found an even bigger solution -- the spacious court provided by Dr. S. Thomas Porter Fieldhouse -- during a 59-40 nonleague victory over the Blades Monday afternoon at the Martin Luther King Jr. Showcase hosted by College of the Sequoias in Visalia.
Defense reigned supreme in the first quarter as both teams combined to shoot 24 percent with a total of 25 missed shots. Mt. Whitney escaped the period with a 12-8 lead despite the block party thrown by Eke and the Blades.
With East Bakersfield packing it in on defense, Pioneer head coach Bob Aguilar decided to take advantage of the larger college court dimensions and spread it out.
The strategy worked so well that Mt. Whitney needed only 77 seconds to turn a slugfest into a blowout.
Turner Nelson's 3 at the 4:55 mark in the second quarter started the run. Three more baskets later and the Pioneers controlled the contest with a 25-11 advantage at 3:38.
The Pioneers also made a change on defense, switching from man-to-man to a zone.
"We wanted to see if they could beat us over the top," Aguilar said. "Fortunately for us, they didn't shoot the ball well."
Credit Aguilar for stating that nicely. The Blades were anything but sharp, making only 18-of-55 (33 percent) field goals and 3-of-11 (27 percent) free throws.
Mt. Whitney started out even worse, with 4-of-18 (22 percent) shooting in the opening period. But the new approach helped the Pioneers make 20-of-39 (51 percent) field goals the rest of the way, complemented by a perfect 4-of-4 performance at the free throw line over the final three quarters.
Ethan Moore paced the Pioneers with 17 points. Dannon Frigulti chipped in with 11. Turner Nelson grabbed 10 rebounds, while Jake Eivins had nine and Frigulti had seven.
Fatain Eke led the Blades with 13. Tevin Beasley scored 12.
"Very pleased," Aguilar said of his team's performance. "You never know in a 1:30 afternoon game after coming off an emotional win at Hanford, you just don't know how the kids will respond. It's a great quality win for us. It builds that momentum going into (Tuesday) night against Redwood."
Mt. Whitney visits Redwood at 7 p.m. tonight to tip off the second half of West Yosemite League competition.
The Pioneers and Rangers both sit a half game out of first place at 3-2. Hanford West holds first place at 4-2.
"Our motto is we control everything that we do," Aguilar said. "Every WYL team has two losses. We don't have to worry about anybody doing something to help Mt. Whitney. Mt. Whitney just needs to focus on Mt. Whitney and things will work out for us. The focus is to try to treat every game like a playoff game."
Junior College Basketball
College of the Sequoias beat Porterville 73-54 Saturday in Visalia.
Troy Norris led the Giants (14-7, 3-1) with 15 points. Larry McMorris and David Love each scored 14.
Up next, the Giants visit West Hills Coalinga at 7 p.m. Jan. 23.