LOS BANOS -- With Monday the earliest high school basketball teams could play games that count, two teams with a lot of room for growth -- Los Banos and Beyer -- decided not to waste time starting the growing process.
The host Tigers, missing seven players still practicing for the second round of the section football playoffs, pulled away for a 52-43 victory, but both teams looked very much like works in progress.
"Like so many teams we're trying to put a lot of stuff in, and Los Banos was definitely prepared for this game," said Brandon Hellstrom after his first game as the Patriots' varsity coach. "They caught us a little unprepared."
As Beyer develops, it will have a shooters' chance of hanging around with most of the teams on its schedule. Ashneel Ghoman had nine of his 11 points from behind the 3-point line, while Kareem Warren scored nine points, all on 3-pointers.
"Right now, what Beyer hangs its hat on is 3-pointers, and we're trying to change that a little bit," Hellstrom said. "But shooting makes up for a multitude of sins."
Los Banos was able to force Beyer into some of those sins. With the majority of the missing Tigers filling the forward spots, Los Banos relied successfully on its backcourt pressuring Beyer's guards. And once the game got into the half court, the Tigers finally in the second half found a way to get the ball into 6-foot-6 senior center Ryley Zimmer.
Zimmer had eight of his team-high 10 points in the second half, and it was by design.
"He's really improved," said Los Banos coach Joe Barcello. "He didn't play much with us this summer so I didn't know what we were going to get. We had to simplify things and run some cross screens to get him the ball in the low post, but as long as he can finish we'll be OK."
Beyer hung with Los Banos for the first half, and when Matt Jackson contributed six points in an 11-5 spurt, the Patriots and Tigers settled for a 25-25 halftime tie.
Both teams sputtered to open the second half, but Dylan Albiani's free throw 2½ minutes into the third quarter gave Beyer its only lead of the game at 26-25.
Los Banos responded defensively by holding the Patriots scoreless for the next 5:26, long enough for sophomore Joey Bennett to score five points and spark an 11-0 run for the Tigers' first double-digit lead, 36-26.
With a comfortable lead, Los Banos finally showed some patience, and the result was Zimmer getting loose for six points inside in the opening four minutes of the final quarter, allowing the Tigers to maintain the lead.
Unlike the 44 boys' and girls' foundation games scheduled for next Monday, this very early meeting counted as a contact and against the teams' records. But win or lose, both teams got what they wanted from the game.
"I was excited about how our seniors played and we got some contribution from some of the guys off the bench," Hellstrom said. "There didn't look like a lot of drop off between the starters and the bench."
Barcellos, whose team won't play another official game until Dec. 3, is wishing the best for the Los Banos football team but certainly is looking forward to having a full roster.
"Two of the seven are starters but the main things is that guys are playing out of position and we're not capable of doing what we're supposed to do," Barcellos said. "We're happy to get the win still down those players."