ELFRIDA — Unlike the season opener earlier this week when the Tombstone boys basketball team started off slow and finished hard, the Yellow Jackets were extremely aggressive from the opening tipoff against Valley Union Thursday, beating the Blue Devils 66-22 in a nonconference game in the G. Dale Mortenson Gymnasium.

Valley Union had a glimpse of the physicality it was going to be in for during the junior varsity game. Play in that game was halted approximately 30 minutes after Blue Devil Cody Pena was injured diving for a loose ball along with two other Tombstone players. Pena’s face hit the floor. EMS personnel from the Elfrida Fire Department transported Pena to a hospital where he reportedly received several stitches and was treated for a concussion.

Pena, a junior, plays both junior varsity and varsity for the Blue Devils but missed the varsity game. To compound matters, sophomore Landon Glenn, Valley Union’s tallest player, broke his ankle in a non-basketball related accident the day before, putting Valley Union first-year coach Brandon Evans in a bind.

When the varsity game began 45 minutes later than originally scheduled, the Yellow Jackets came out with the intensity and fire their coach Dennis Baker wanted, jumping to an 8-0 lead before Angel Vasquez sank a 3-point basket for VU, ending the six-minute scoring drought.

Tombstone responded with back-to-back buckets by Malachi Keller and Alec Jordan for a 12-3 lead.

Minutes later Ty Adams drilled a ,3 giving Tombstone a 17-6 edge at the end of the first quarter.

In the second quarter Keller sank a 3 and was 4-for-4 on his free-throws and Julain Ortiz pumped in six points while the Yellow Jackets connected on 12-of-17 free throws to lead 39-16 at the half.

Despite the 23-point lead, Tombstone kept up its defensive intensity the second half outscoring Valley Union 22-6 in the third quarter and 5-0 in the fourth, coming away with a dominating 44-point win.

Jordan led Tombstone with 17 points, Keller had 15 and Adams contributed nine.

For Valley Union, Jonathan Guzman scored seven points and Sidney Livingston and Laris Two Moons each had four.

“We began tonight the way I wanted us to play,” Baker said. “This is how I want us to play every night.”

Baker said because of their style of play he is aware his team is going to get into foul trouble. That’s where having a deep bench helps.

“I’m a defensive coach and I love seeing good defense at the highest level,” he said. “We challenged our guys tonight to bring a level of energy and effort into this game and at a level that we’re proud of at Tombstone and they responded. I was happy that when our bench went in they kept that defensive energy up that our starters had.”

The win was Baker’s first as head coach.

“This feels really good,” he said. “I feel even better for the kids. They have been working hard for the past month. They left it all on the court tonight. It’s good for them to see their efforts translate into a win.”

It was another rough night for Valley Union.

On Tuesday, Nov. 30, Valley Union was in San Manuel and lost 72-19.

“We’re so young,” he said. “We can’t get discouraged and need to keep working on fundamentals. We need to be a little more aggressive and make better passes. I can’t say anything bad about their hustle, they’re giving me 100%.”

Tombstone, 1-2 overall, will be at Santa Rita on Tuesday before playing in the Benson Holiday Tournament Friday and Saturday, Dec. 10-11. The Yellow Jackets open play Dec. 10 against Sahuarita.

Valley Union, 0-2, has two games this week before the Benson tournament. The Blue Devils host Benson on Wednesday, will be at Bisbee on Thursday and will face Patagonia Friday in the first game of the tournament.

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