El Capitan standout groomed for ‘nights like this.’ Gauchos top Merced for key win.

Dillon Greenwood, El Capitan
Dillon Greenwood, El Capitan

Dillon Greenwood has been prepared to play a key role for the El Capitan High boys basketball team the past two seasons. That’s why Gauchos coach Adrian Hurtado promoted Greenwood to the varsity level as a freshman two years ago.

The move is paying dividends this year after El Capitan lost 10 seniors from its Central California Conference championship team last season.

The junior guard has made a big jump this season, averaging close to 15 points per game.

Greenwood delivered big in the second half on Wednesday night against Merced, scoring 14 of his game-high 20 points in the second half to help the Guachos hold off the Bears 49-46 at the Stable Center.

“When I brought Dillon up when he was a freshman it was for nights like this,” said Hurtado, whose team improved to 13-5 overall and 2-1 in the CCC. “Moving him up allowed him to learn our system and helped develop him as a player.”

After knocking down a pair of 3-pointers in the first half, Greenwood continuously attacked the paint in the second half.

“It’s a killer mentality,” Greenwood said. “I’ve got to get to the rim and be a scorer.”

AK Merced vs El Capitan Boys Basketball 1.JPG
El Capitan’s Dillon Greenwood (5), shown here last year against Merced, has thrived in a larger role for the Gauchos, averaging 14.7 points per game this season. Andrew Kuhn

Greenwood has seen his scoring average jump over eight points per game from 6.4 last season. He’s second in scoring behind senior Marcus McCutchen, who scored 15 points against Merced.

Greenwood is learning how to score when he’s a focus every night of the opposing defense.

“There’s scoring and then there’s scoring when you’re part of the scouting report,” Hurtado said.

The Gauchos needed Greenwood’s performance on Wednesday night with Merced staging a comeback despite trailing 15-0 after the first quarter.

The Bears (7-11, 1-1 CCC) stormed back to cut the Gauchos’ lead to 20-16 at the half. Kortez Tyler led the Bears in scoring with 15 points. Dhameer added 10 points and 11 rebounds for Merced.

“Basketball is very simple,” said Bears coach Hector Nava. “You’ve got to play hard, you’ve got to play together, you’ve got to play smart and you have to have fun. We forgot one component, we didn’t play smart. We turned the ball over 19 times and it’s hard to win when you do that.”

The Gauchos are trying to keep pace with Golden Valley after losing to the Cougars in the CCC opener last week. El Capitan wants to put itself in position to make the rematch with the Cougars on Jan. 23 mean something.

Greenwood is determined to do his part.

“My role has expanded this year to become a leader,” Greenwood said. “We had a lot of young guys this year and I want to show them just like the seniors before showed me.”

Golden Valley 68, Central Valley 48 in Ceres — Avery Townsel and Zack Fernandez both scored 14 points as the Cougars improved to 3-0 in the CCC. Brendan Nole added 11 points for Golden Valley.

Atwater 60, Patterson 58 in Atwater — Robert Smid paced the Falcons (8-9, 1-1 CCC) with 20 points. Christian Pineda finished with 12 points for Atwater.

The Falcons’ Richard DeLaRosa drew a charge foul with 0. 3 seconds left to seal the victory.