Union Mine wins despite flaws

Union Mine wins despite flaws

His boys basketball team is 12-1 and ranked No. 4 by The Bee. But Union Mine coach Terry Battenberg is unimpressed.

“To be honest, we aren’t playing that well,” Battenberg said. “We aren’t shooting the ball very well, our free-throw percentage isn’t good, and our timing is off. What’s saved us is our defense.”

Battenberg blames the late arrival of two key players, members of the Diamondbacks’ football team that lost to Grant in the Division II section final Dec. 1, and 10 fewer days to practice because of a section decision to move the start of winter sports from Nov. 1 to Nov. 10.

“You take away 10 days of practice, and you aren’t going to have a very good product,” Battenberg said. “Somebody has to win, but a lot of teams have started slowly.”

The Diamondbacks appear to be picking up steam.

They avenged their only loss, 49-40 to Pleasant Valley on Dec. 9, by beating the Chico team 47-44 in the championship game of the Trojan Toss-up on Dec. 30 in El Dorado Hills.

They looked impressive in Friday night’s Sierra Valley Conference opener on the road, holding No. 19 Ponderosa to four second-half points en route to a 54-26 victory. The next day, they fought off fatigue and 17 turnovers to beat No. 11 Foothill 57-47 in the Father Kelly Tribute at Jesuit.

Senior Dallin Rogers, who sparked the Diamondbacks in both games with 19- and 20-point performances, still sees plenty of flaws.

“We played hard, but we need to get a lot better,” Rogers said in summing up the Foothill game and the season. “We have had our moments, but we’ve got to do it for a whole game.”

The 6-foot-4 Rogers and 6-8 center Kurt Bennett, in their fourth seasons on the varsity, are the catalysts.

Rogers, an All-NorCal and All-Metro tight end, has a football scholarship to Utah, though he said he’d like to play basketball there also. Bennett, who carries a 4.0 grade-point average, will play basketball at Amherst, a Division III school in Massachusetts.

They are complemented by a senior core of point guard Austin Nelson, small forward A.J. Carson and power forwards Ed Alsaker, a 6-5 football standout, and 6-7 Matt Keele, the team’s biggest surprise.

Cut his freshman year, Keele barely made the junior varsity as a sophomore. He made Battenberg’s varsity last season but continued to sit the bench.

“He just kept growing and working hard in practice, and suddenly he turned into a jumping machine that gets up and down the court like a deer,” Battenberg said.

Battenberg, who took his first head-coaching job in 1968 at Jesuit and said he will retire at the end of this season, said he has a team good enough to end Oak Ridge’s four-year reign as SVC champion.

Although he considers the Division III playoffs to be a “crapshoot for everybody,” he said the Diamondbacks, who lost to defending section champion St. Mary’s of Stockton in last season’s semifinals, should be in the mix.

“We have tremendous potential to be very good by the end of the season,” Battenberg said.

Fallen Dragon — Sacramento High’s hopes of winning the D-III section title suffered a blow Saturday when one of the area’s top underclass players, sophomore swing Chase Tapley, dislocated his left knee during the Dragons’ victory over Salesian of Richmond in the Father Kelly Tribute.

Tapley had surgery Sunday and is out for the season.

“He might be healed in time for the playoffs, but I’ve told him we aren’t going to chance it,” coach Derek Swafford said. “He’s a little bummed about it. But I think he sees the bigger picture about his future and that it’s important to heal completely and be ready for next season.”

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