On the shortest day of the year, playing in a gym short on fans but filled with the exciting cacophony provided by the Mustang pep drum line, the Oakdale Mustangs varsity boys basketball team won a thriller against their “next door neighbors,” the Riverbank Bruins, by the score of 53-49.
The game got off to a fast-paced start with Bruins Diego Felix and Erick Jimenez burning the nets with seven three-point baskets between them early on (four for Felix and three for Jimenez) to take a 25-15 lead at the end of the first quarter. The Mustangs responded with a fast-moving, sharp-passing, team-oriented offense designed to get the ball inside to either senior center Jackson Holt or senior forward Nate Criswell.
It was Criswell who benefitted mostly from that particular offense as he scored 21 of his game high 33 points from around the hoop in the first half. Despite a solid Mustang defense and Criswell’s inside scoring, the first half ended with the hot shooting Bruins leading the Mustangs 33-25.
The second half brought a completely different story, however, as head coach Ryan Berg’s Mustangs outscored the Bruins 17-5 in the third quarter behind the inside shooting of Criswell and Holt complemented by a three-pointer each by Criswell, and seniors Charles Cripe and Landon Nunes. It was the Mustang defense, however, that created many of the opportunities for the Mustang scoring. The game got quite interesting in the fourth stanza, however, as the Bruins, led by senior Freddy Anderson, and the Mustangs each scored 11 points. With under two minutes remaining in the game, the score was tied at 45 apiece. But then Criswell and company used the free throw line and tough, hustling team defense to emerge with the 53-49 victory.
Jackson Holt dominated the key defensively, grabbing several key rebounds, and Landon Nunes, senior Jake Kettering, junior Nico Klose, and sophomore Jayden Coehlo played tough back court defense, as the previously-hot-shooting Bruins cooled off in the second half.
Nate Criswell was high point man for Oakdale with 33; Riverbank had a pair of players in double figures, Diego Felix with 17 and Erick Jimenez with 13.
Notching three-point baskets were Jake Kettering, Landon Nunes, Carson Cripe and Criswell for Oakdale with one each; the Bruins put in nine from beyond the arc with five from Diego Felix, three from Erick Jimenez and one from Isaac Estrada.
The Mustangs next home games will be in the 50th annual Oakdale Rotary Holiday Classic, from Tuesday, Dec. 28 through Thursday, Dec. 30 in the Mustang Arena. The opening game for the varsity Mustangs in the tournament was scheduled for Tuesday Dec. 28 at 8 p.m. against the Johansen Vikings.
The Mustang freshmen and JVs also won handily in their respective games against the visiting Bruins.