Wednesday, January 19th, the San Joaquin Memorial Panthers headed east to play the Sanger Apaches in a County-Metro League game, where the Panthers would look to improve to 3-0 in league and move one step closer to solidifying a spot in the Central Section Open Division for the 3rd consecutive season. However, the major story of this game centered around Fresno State-bound senior guard Joseph Hunter’s pursuit of surpassing the 2000 career points scored milestone. Hunter entered the game with a total of one thousand, nine hundred and eighty-seven career points, which put him thirteen points away from the illustrious 2000 point club.
Hunter has been putting up big scoring numbers all season long, with a career-high of 44 points coming against the Bullard Knights to open up league play, and an average of 31 points per game through the Panthers’ first twenty games. Given the scoring numbers Hunter has accumulated this season, it was a matter of when not if he would get the thirteenth point needed to reach the two thousand point mark against Sanger.
The game was close in the early going, and the Panthers were up by a slim two-point margin, 16-14, as the 1st quarter came to an end. Hunter had nine points in the quarter and looked to eclipse the 2000 point milestone before the end of the half. Nevertheless, Hunter’s shot was a bit off and I assume the desire to get to the thirteen point-mark added a little more pressure and some rushed shots. A few minutes into the 2nd quarter, junior guard Amari Carraway picked up a loose ball, looked up and saw Hunter wide open, and fed him a pass that led to a transition dunk; putting Hunter at 11 points. A few possessions later, Hunter, with the ball in hand, attacked the paint off the perimeter and was fouled on the shot, which would send him to the line for two free throws. After the foul call, one of the Sanger players was given a technical foul, which would add two more free throws and possession of the ball. Hunter would have four free-throw attempts to get the two points he needed to reach 13. Hunter knocked down the first two free throws with ease and officially hit the 2000 point milestone midway through the 2nd quarter.
Hunter would connect on the technical foul free throws as well, and after that he took over the game, finishing with a game-high 38 points and a Panthers victory by a score of 80-62. Hunter has had an amazing high school basketball career, as he earned numerous Division 1 offers before deciding on staying local and committing to the Fresno State University Bulldogs, as the highest national recruit the Bulldogs have ever landed. Hunter led the Panthers to the inaugural Central Section Open Division Championship and was named Most Outstanding Player as a sophomore. San Joaquin Memorial earned a 2nd consecutive trip to the Central Section Open Division Championship Game, as they were led by Hunter and a loaded roster but fell short to the St. Joseph Knights. The Panthers appear to be headed to their 3rd straight Open Division Sectional playoffs this season, and this is in large part to the stellar play of the senior guard. Hunter is the strong frontrunner to earn Most Valuable Player for the Central Section and would love to end his high school career with a 2nd Open Division Sectional Championship.
Regardless of the outcome for the Panthers this season, Hunter will go down as one of the best players to wear a San Joaquin Memorial jersey, which is saying a lot given the players that have gone through the program over the years (Jalen Green, Quincy Pondexter, the Lopez Brothers, and many other greats). Hunter has been a prolific scorer, elite defender, was selected to the prestigious 2021 Pangos All-American Camp as a junior, and recently was selected as a McDonald’s All-American Game 2022 West Region Nominee. It has been a pleasure to watch Hunter throughout his high school basketball career in all venues of high school basketball and look forward to seeing him make an instant impact at Fresno State next year.