Over 30 former Golden Valley High basketball players lined up along the baseline. Not to run lines, but to honor Cougars coach Keith Hunter during a pregame ceremony on Friday night before the Cougars played Turlock.
Golden Valley honored Hunter for reaching 400 career wins earlier this season.
Players who suited up for Hunter 20 years ago showed up. The former players included Texas Rangers pitcher Doug Fister and current Atwater High football coach Seneca Ybarra.
Two other former Golden Valley graduates in Assemblyman Adam Gray and Merced Mayor Mike Murphy participated in the pregame ceremony.
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“It’s very humbling,” Hunter said. “There were a lot of players there. I’ve always loved every one of my players. I know sometimes they haven’t loved me. But seeing that many of them there, it was very moving for me.”
Former player Aaron Castleton, who also coached with Hunter, talked about the night Golden Valley won the Sac-Joaquin Section championship in 1997.
Castleton spoked about how Golden Valley lost to Vacaville the year before the section title on a last-second chance.
When the Cougars faced Vacaville for the section championship a year later at then Arco Arena, Hunter wrote on the board before the game, “We owe Vacaville.”
“Tonight, we owe you, coach Hunter,” Castleton said.
Golden Valley’s first principal Ralf Swenson spoke about when him and then athletic director Kevin Swartwood hired Hunter as their first boys basketball coach when the school opened in 1994.
Hunter took the microphone at the end of the ceremony and thanked the players, the parents, his assistant coaches and his family.
“It’s a great honor for the program,” Hunter said. “I get the individual accolade, but I’ve always been a team guy. I’ve always preached the team, the team, the team. Everyone shares in this accomplishment.”
The game didn’t go as well for Golden Valley as Turlock defeated the Cougars 60-56.
Cameron Sherwood led the Bulldogs (11-12 overall, 6-3 CCC) with 17 points. Turlock built a 42-30 lead by the end of the third quarter.
The Cougars (17-8, 6-4) cut the lead to 56-54 with 37 seconds left, but couldn’t pull out the win.
Etrell Bowers led Golden Valley with 18 points. Brendan Nole and Cyrus Allen added 10 points apiece.
“We shot 5 for 24 in the first half,” Hunter said. “On the flip side we made 7 of 7 shots from the free throw line. But we shot bad. I sat there and watched it, trying my hardest not to react. We’ve got to stick some shots.”
Allen did move into second all-time on the Golden Valley scoring list. His 10 points on Friday give him 1,247 career points to move past Brandon Boothe (1,244).