Sports

James Burns: Barcellos' boys finally playing football-free

LOS BANOS -- Joe Barcellos stuck to the program, never straying away from the coaching model he put in place.

The Los Banos boys basketball coach kept the faith, chewing away on his trademark white towel even as a football hangover was destroying his winning percentage.

Someone had to pay a price for all that football fun, right?

After 10 long seasons, Los Banos had finally cracked the safe and broke into the Sac-Joaquin Section football playoffs.

And everyone rejoiced.

Half the town turned up in Stockton to see Los Banos' postseason revival against eventual Division I section champion St. Mary's.

Even Barcellos celebrated the gridiron success...

Sort of.

The football team's postseason appearance, though exciting and new, meant his basketball team would start the season weeks behind schedule.

If you need a visual, imagine a sprinter sitting at the starting line fumbling with his shoelaces when...

Bang!

"The football players set us back a week. And when you think about it, football started a week later this year, so really it set us back two weeks," Barcellos said. "But it's something we haven't gone through in 10 years."

Still, it was something.

For two weeks, the Los Banos boys basketball team carried around a goose egg.

Officially, they were the last of our Central California Conference basketball teams to record a victory.

The skid: Six games, six losses.

Some of them were close, like the 63-59 loss to Beyer to open the season, and the 71-70 gut-punch delivered by Patterson.

Others weren't so tight.

Los Banos was rocked by Livingston 63-50 and thumped by Enochs 59-42 to end a miserable Modesto City Tournament experience.

"We played our first game on a Monday and (the football players) were done on Friday," Barcellos said. "And then, boom, we have to go play in the Modesto tournament.

"We had five games and just three practices. We were learning on the fly. We were very vanilla."

The beauty about any kind of hangover is that it doesn't last.

With a little bit of patience and medicine, eventually everything feels right again.

Eventually, you look and sound like Barcellos did Wednesday.

In one of the more remarkable feats of this young season, Barcellos and his boys will wake up this morning with their heads above the water line.

Los Banos (9-9) won for the ninth time in its last 12 games on Wednesday, reaching the .500 mark for the first time all season.

It seems the football players have finally found their legs.

Rubal Sangha scored 24 points, and Andrae Jones had 20 as six football players found the scoring column in a 75-70 victory at Buhach Colony.

Officially, Los Banos is tied atop the CCC table with Merced at 3-0 heading into tonight's game against 1-2 Turlock.

"Six of the top eight guys in my rotation are football players, so the biggest thing was conditioning," Barcellos said. "It wasn't Xs and Os. It was about getting their basketball legs underneath them and learning how to play with each other."

In doing so, Los Banos has learned how to win with any style.

Barcellos' boys showed they can slow the game down and play possession basketball like it did in wins over Golden Valley and Atwater.

You want to turn the dial to full-tilt boogie and set the court on fire as BC did Wednesday?

Again, LB was better.

"We can play a multitude of styles. It's not like there is any one style that can take us by storm," Barcellos said.

"With 16 guys, I've got a lot of interchangeable parts."

The question becomes: Can Los Banos keep it up long enough to make a serious run at the CCC title and playoffs?

Hey, anything is possible.

Just ask the football team.

James Burns is sports editor of the Sun-Star. He can be reached at jburns@mercedsun-star.com.

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