Unbeaten Denair boys basketball tops spring performances

It’s a different time to be an athlete at Denair High School. The COVID pandemic compressed all sports into a truncated schedule, with football and other fall sports starting in March Words and winter sports like basketball and wrestling overlapping now with baseball, softball, soccer and track. Here is a quick look at how some of the Coyotes’ teams are doing this season.

Boys Basketball

Denair, led by junior guard Mario Plascencia, a three-year starter, has won all five of its games and is in first place in the Southern League. The Coyotes played their best game of the season on Friday on the road at Hughson, routing the Huskies 78-52 behind Plascencia’s 24 points and 12 rebounds.

“He does it all,” complimented Coach R.J. Henderson. “He guards the other team’s best player. He steps up to every challenge. He’s terrific defensively. He’s the straw that stirs the drink.”

Plascencia has had plenty of help from junior Cooper Feldman, who leads the team in scoring, averaging 17.6 points a game to go along with 6.6 rebounds.

“He’s been very efficient around the rim. He’s a slasher and uber aggressive offensively,” Henderson said.

Because of the pandemic, Denair will play only 10 games in the revamped Southern League, which includes Trans-Valley League schools Hughson and Riverbank this season only instead of Gustine, Delhi and LeGrand.

This week, the Coyotes host Orestimba (3-1) on Wednesday and Riverbank (0-4) on Friday. Both games tip off at 7 p.m. The season ends June 11; there will be no playoffs.

Two days before every game, all the players and coaches must pass a COVID test. Coaches and officials wear masks during the games. Fans are limited to four per player.

“I think our administration has done a terrific job running through all the protocols,” Henderson said. “It’s part of the reality. Hopefully, next year is different. … We’re off to a great start. … It’s been good, healthy competition and new rivalries starting to happen. It’s been fun.”

Girls Basketball

The Coyotes are 0-3, having played close games against Riverbank and Waterford before losing 66-16 on Friday against Hughson. Denair returns to action this week with Southern League road games Wednesday against Orestimba in Newman and Friday in Riverbank.


Denair has hosted two of the four scheduled competitions with other Southern League schools, the most recently on Saturday. The next will be this Saturday in Waterford and the final one of the season June 5 at Denair. Coach Bryan Herrington said no team scores are being kept, but most of his wrestlers have been able to get in at least two matches at each of the events.


The Coyotes are 2-6 in league play, with both victories coming by identical 15-5 scores against Riverbank.

Senior Hunter Souza leads the team with an impressive .452 batting average, 14 hits (including three triples) and nine runs scored. Junior Nick Collins is hitting .375, senior Matt Collins is at .360 and senior David Sutton is at .333.

“We are a young team. Three of our starters are freshmen and we are competing against other varsity teams from much bigger high schools,” said Coach Craig Cumberland. “We only have 11 players, so it is a challenge having enough pitching as we sometimes play three games a week. But the good news is the players are catching on to what the coaching staff is teaching.”

Denair plays at Gustine on Wednesday, the closes out the season June 1 and June 3 with two games against Waterford.

Boys soccer

Denair (1-2-1) won its first match of the year Wednesday against Hughson, beating the Huskies 6-2. The Coyotes host Riverbank on Wednesday at 3:30 p.m.

Track and Field

Denair has 20 athletes competing in track and field, but it is a very young team with only two seniors and one junior.

“They are a dedicated group and are hitting the workouts hard,” said Coach Jim Wagner. “We have had one meet in Riverbank and some strong performances, considering their youth and competing at the varsity level. We are building on the great attitudes these young athletes bring to the track and I look forward to the rest of the season and the seasons ahead.”

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