Angel Serena’s value to the El Capitan High boys basketball team doesn’t usually show up on the stat sheet. The senior, who stands 5-foot-7, averages just 5.8 points per game.
Serena is a true point guard, often looking to pass and set up his teammates before he looks for his shot. His contributions didn’t go unnoticed on Wednesday night.
Serena came out aggressive, scoring 17 points and helping the Gauchos dictate the tempo of the game as El Capitan defeated Merced 60-53 on Wednesday night in a key Central California Conference game on Vince Clemons Court in front of a large crowd.
“Angel is absolutely a true point guard,” El Capitan coach Adrian Hurtado said. “Sometimes he gets confused when to attack and when to set up his teammates. Us coaches have been in his ear to shoot the ball. Tonight he was aggressive.”
Serena hit two early 3-pointers to get the Gauchos offense going in the first quarter and scored 12 points in the first half to help El Capitan take a 32-24 lead into intermission.
Just as big was Serena helping the Gauchos dictate a fast tempo in the game. El Capitan (15-5 overall, 3-1 CCC) likes to play and up-and-down style, pressing full court and trying to score quick in transition.
The style worked against a Merced team that plays most of the game without a true point guard. The Bears rely on players like Xavier Stewart and Dhameer Warren to bring up the ball against the press. Merced tried to pass the ball up the court and turned the ball over six times in the first quarter.
“El Cap wants you to play fast,” said Bears coach Hector Nava, whose team has dropped two games in a row and is now 11-7 overall and 1-2 in the CCC. “They were willing to play fast on offense. We struggled.”
The Gauchos opened up a 48-31 lead midway through the third quarter. TJ Wills hit back-to-back baskets to give the Gauchos a 48-31 lead with 3:43 left in the third quarter.
Merced made just 3 of 12 shots in the third quarter.
“We needed this,” Hurtado said. “We really wanted to see what our guys were made of and how they responded after a tough loss to Golden Valley on Monday night. With these three-game weeks you really have to have a short memory. Golden Valley slowed it down too much to our liking and they were able to get the ball to Cyrus (Allen).
“Tonight we put the pressure on and Merced didn’t handle it as much.”
The Bears made it interesting in the fourth quarter, trimming a 13-point lead down to just three points at 54-51 with 2:41 left in the game.
After turning the ball over 14 times in the first three quarters, the Bears only turned the ball over twice in the fourth quarter.
Warren and Stewart knocked down 3-pointers to pull Merced within three points, but El Capitan was able to hold off the Bears down the stretch. Jeremy Redwine paced the Bears with 15 points, eight rebounds and four blocks. Davion Jackson added 12 points and Warren 10 for Merced.
Marcus McCutchen had a big game for El Capitan, finishing with 17 points.
“These games are fun,” McCutchen said. “We’re big rivals. There’s big crowds. It’s good that we can put on a show for Merced.”
Turlock 46, Golden Valley 42 in Turlock – The Cougars struggled again on the road in the CCC with an upset loss at Turlock. Cameron Sherwood scored 17 points for the Bulldogs (7-10 overall, 2-1 CCC). Turlock outscored GV 10-3 in the second quarter to take an 18-15 lead at the half.
Cyrus Allen led Golden Valley (12-6, 2-2) with 14 points. The Cougars played without guard Devon Martinez, who was sidelined with an illness.
Golden Valley is 2-0 at home and 0-2 on the road in CCC play.
Pitman 59, Buhach Colony 48 at Atwater – Christian Willams led the Pride (15-4, 3-1 CCC) with nine points. Irik Dobbins scored 20 points to pace the Thunder (9-9, 1-2). Anoop Nagra added 13 points for BC.
Livingston 68, Central Valley 56 in Ceres – Kevin Alvarez scored 22 points as the Wolves won their Western Athletic Conference opener over the Hawks. Sebastian Pulido and Ceasar Avila both added 11 points for Livingston (9-9 overall).
Golden Valley 1, El Capitan 1 in Merced – Bryan Robles scored on a pass from Cristian Gaona in the 78th minute to tie the game for the Cougars (0-1-2 CCC). El Capitan took the lead in the first minute with Nestor Montes scored on pass from Jorge Moreno. El Capitan is 0-2-1 in the CCC.
Turlock 1, Atwater 1 in Atwater – Gerardo Delgadillo scored a goal and Christian Madrigal picked up the assist for the Falcons (5-4-5 overall, 0-0-3 CCC). Axel Altimirano scored the Bulldogs (1-0-1 CCC) goal on a pass from Isaiah Johnson.