By Ed Martin, Editor
An emotional Samantha Earl prior to Wednesday's game against Fresno City College.
An emotional Samantha Earl prior to Wednesday's game against Fresno City College.

It was an emotional night for a West Hills Lemoore basketball team that didn’t have its biggest supporter cheering from his bleacher seat Wednesday night. Recently retired President Don Warkentin, who unexpectedly passed away Monday, was perhaps the team’s biggest fan, having rarely missed a game during the team’s 4 years of existence. Instead, his many friends were there to honor the guy who cared so much about his team and his school.

The players had the utmost respect for their former college president. He knew each of the girls personally and was always an encouraging voice at games and practices, where he often dropped by to check on the players’ progress.

The players honored their mentor by wearing warmup t-shirts with his name and placing his name on their sneakers. A moment of silence was held prior to the start of the game.

He was so proud of the team and the progress it had made in such a short time. This year’s team has been challenging for the Conference title, its only losses to Fresno City and College of the Sequoias.

However, despite mounting a furious comeback that brought the Golden Eagles to within 14 points with less than 3 minutes to play, the Central Valley Conference leading Fresno City Rams beat the Eagles 70-56.

The Eagles fell to 5-3 in the CVC and will have games at Reedley (Feb. 6) and Merced (Feb. 10) before returning home for the final regular-season game against COS.

The emotion got the best of the Golden Eagles in the first half as Fresno City erupted for 56 first-half points and a 56-26 lead.

It was a different story in the second half as the Eagles kept chipping away at the huge Ram lead and with about 3 minutes left in the game cut the once huge margin to just 14 points at 67-53. Unfortunately, it just wasn’t enough as the Rams held on to remain unbeaten in the CVC.

Samantha Earl and Jordon Lassiter led the Golden Eagles with 12 points while Michelle Brown finished with 10 points.