Angel Serena on El Capitan’s win over Pitman
A 27-game basketball season can be a grind at times. There are going to be nights when teams aren’t at their best.
Wednesday night was one of those nights for the El Capitan High boys basketball team. So the Gauchos had to go to “Plan B.”
Like a veteran pitcher who doesn’t have his best fastball out on the mound and has to rely on his breaking ball. El Capitan ditched its full-court press after watching Pitman torch it for layups early on.
The Gauchos went to a half-court man defense. El Capitan coach Adrian Hurtado called it “old school” as his team came back in the second half to defeat the Pride 62-57 on Wednesday night in the Stable Center. The win gives El Capitan (16-5 overall, 5-1 Central California Conference) sole possession of first place at the halfway mark in conference play.
“I think it was (8-0) at the start,” Hurtado said. “I don’t live or die by the press. We want to play fast, but Pitman was ready for it. We pulled it back. We went old school and went stop by stop. It was one of those grind-it-out CCC games. I don’t think we played well. You have to give credit to Pitman. Our guys just dug deep and showed a lot of hear.”
The Pride’s first seven baskets came on a layups against the press or in transition. Jacob Staton finally broke up the layup parade with a 3-pointer that gave Pitman a 17-9 lead with 2:32 left in the first quarter. The Pride made eight of their first nine baskets.
“In the beginning of the game they slapped us in the face,” said El Capitan senior Angel Serena. “It took a while for us to get going.”
It was Serena who carried the Gauchos on his back in the first half, scoring 15 of his game-high 19 points to keep El Capitan within 31-26 at the half.
The smallest guy on the court most of the time, Serena took the ball to the hole over and over.
“If it wasn’t for Angel, we lose by 20 points tonight,” Hurtado said. “That’s a kid who is just bringing it all together as a senior. He’s a 5-foot-7 man out there. And that’s what we expect. He’s a captain of this team. He showed up.”
The Gauchos made some adjustments at half, going to the half-court defense and changing up some of the defensive assignments.
Serena said the El Capitan coaches have trained the players for nights when they had to find other ways to beat teams.
“We’ve had games this year where our coaches have said against this team we’re only going to use ‘Plan B’ or ‘Plan C,’ Serena said. “We wouldn’t press that game. We did it so we’d be ready for a night like this.”
It also helped that other guys started knocking down shots.
Mark Sellers, Steven Yang and TJ Wills all drained big 3-pointers during a third quarter that saw the Gauchos outscore Pitman 20-13.
The Gauchos coaching staff was all over Marcus McCutchen after a first half that saw the junior only score two poins. McCutchen made some big shots late to help El Capitan hold off the Pride. McCutchen scored nine of his 11 points in the second half.
Wills finished with 13 points and Sellers added 10 points.
Slaton led Pitman (15-5, 3-2) with 18 points and Dominick Von Waaden added 17 points.
Don’t expect the Gauchos to get too excited about being in first place at the half way point.
“It’s all about the focus and preparation,” Hurtado said. “We have to keep doing everything we’ve been doing. Last year we were 7-1 going into Merced and dropped our last three games at the end. Our guys remember that.”
Atwater 52, Merced 49 at Atwater – Saul Avitia hit a half-court shot at the buzzer for the game-winner for the Falcons (1-4 CCC).
Avitia caught the ball, spun and launched the shot from the Falcon logo at half court.
“We drew up a half-court shot and Saul hit it,” said Atwater coach Kanoa Smith. “We knew Merced was going to protect the paint so a lob was out of the situation. We could have tried to set up some multiple screens but Merced is so athletic they can switch those. We just tried to set up a deep three. We wanted to get Saul running toward the rim.”
Avitia led the Falcons with 18 points. Ashton Jantz added 16 points and Dawson DeSousa chipped in with 11 points.
Jeremy Redwine led Merced, who came back from a seven-point deficit to take a lead briefly in the fourth quarter, with 14 points. Adam Cardoso hit some big 3-pointers late for the Bears and finished with 12 points. Anthony Robinson scored 11 points for Merced (12-8, 2-3).
Turlock 62, Buhach Colony 49 in Turlock – Cameron Sherwood led the Bulldogs with 13 points. Jake Abrams paced the Thunder (1-4 CCC) with 16 points.
Atwater 2, Golden Valley 1 in Atwater – Gerardo Delgadillo scored with about 2 minutes left in the game to lift the Falcons (1-0-3 CCC) to a victory over the Cougars. Delgadillo scored both Atwater goals. Eric Juarez recorded an assist.
Kevin Garnica scored Golden Valley’s goal on an assist from Lor Xiong.
Buhach Colony 1, El Capitan 0 in Merced – Alberto Garcia scored the only goal of the game as the Thunder improved to 4-0 in the CCC.
Stone Ridge Christian 8, Elliot Christian 0 in Merced – Bryce Louters scored three goals and Marco Azevedo added two scores as the Knights won big.