The Los Banos High junior varsity and freshman boys basketball teams each won their division of the Tiger Classic last weekend at Los Banos High School.
The JV squad went 3-0, starting with a convincing 59-21 win over Pacheco on Dec. 12. Post players David Walker and Anthony Machado led with 13 points each, and guard Drew Dahlgren added another 10. The clean sweep (the Tigers went on to defeat Livingston and Dos Palos) gave Los Banos JV coach Aaron Gentry a 9-0 record in the Classic since coming on board three years ago.
“I don’t know, it’s really just the kids playing,” Gentry said. “It’s early, so maybe other teams aren’t ready, but we get a good group that come in over the summer and put in work, so we’re more prepared for this stuff. Drew, Jorge (Gutierrez), Jacob (Haumea), a lot of the guys that come off the bench. That helps us out a lot.”
Against Pacheco, the Los Banos post players fed off the extra ball movement on the perimeter.
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“When we swing the ball up top, it allows them to get open. But when we try to make the first pass to the big guys, that’s when we turn the ball over a lot,” Gentry said. “I think we’re doing a much better job from the first game to this game of swinging the ball in the zone, and that’s allowing (David) Walker and (Anthony) Machado to get open. And Walker’s a great passer, a lot of people don’t know, but he can pass. So when he gets the ball, they do a good job working together high-low. They just have a natural chemistry.”
In addition to the perimeter movement, Machado and Walker got each other the ball under the basket, keeping the Pacheco defense off balance.
“We rely on the guys up top a lot so we can get in,” Machado said. “They dump it down low to Walker, I’ll cut in and score. Or I’ll get it, dump it to Walker, score. Once we start putting them all in when we get the ball, then we kick it back out, they shoot the 3s and make them.
“We played football together, so when one of us does something good, it pumps the other one up. We always have a competition with each other. We always want to do better than the other person.”
Mark Barcellos made a contribution in the post as well, seeing the floor a lot in the second half, when he was playing inside and Haumea was running the point.
“Mark has come a long way since we started, and he’s always the one that’s working before I get here,” Gentry said. “When I come in he’s working on his jump shot or his footwork, and Jacob, he can play, it’s just his confidence level.”
The Los Banos freshman squad went 2-1 in the tournament, dropping a game to Pitman. Pacheco also went 2-1, with its only loss coming in the opener against Los Banos. The head-to-head result (Los Banos’ 45-36 victory) was the tiebreaker, giving Los Banos the tournament.
Anthony Aguirre led with 11 points against Pacheco, and Mason Leao added 9, but Deontae Smith made the difference with his defense – at least in the first half. After the break, Pacheco adjusted, passing around Smith rather than trying to dribble past him.
“In the second half he had to play on the box because guys got in foul trouble or got tired. That’s one piece I can move around the board,” LB freshman coach Ernest Willhite said. “He can play in the middle, he can play in the box, he can play up top, so he’s athletic enough to be able to do it. When he makes a mistake, you can see how quick he can get back into that defensive flow and run the ball down.”
Los Banos’ game against Livingston was the second of five meetings planned between the two freshman teams. Livingston won at the Ceres tournament, Los Banos won at the Tiger Classic, the two will play again at an Atwater tournament on Dec. 26, and then they will play twice in league play.