As long as Joe Zamora has coached the Dos Pueblos High boys basketball team, saying goodbye to his senior class is still a tough thing to do.
Monday night was another case of that, as Zamora watched eight seniors play their final game inside Sovine Gym. Even though the Chargers trailed Lompoc most of the way, they came together in the fourth quarter and pulled out a 60-53 win over the Braves.
Down by 10 early in the game and having never held the lead until the 5:16 mark of the fourth quarter, DP’s comeback victory put a ribbon on a nice night for Zamora and his coaching staff.
“Yes. It’s tough saying goodbye here, but we’ll definitely have one more game (Thursday at Santa Barbara),” the affable coach said.” It’s always tough, but they always come back for my alumni game, so I get to see them again.”
Zamora, as he does every year, started five seniors. Three of them haven’t gotten a lot of playing time this season.
That inexperience showed in the opening minutes of the game, when the Braves built a 12-2 lead.
“They’re definitely inexperienced, but they actually had that opportunity to play and see what it’s all about,” Zamora said. “The other guys know they’re going to have their opportunity when they’re seniors.”
Zamora said one of the best things about the night was hearing some of his seniors who don’t play that much get introduced into the starting lineup by the public address announcer.
“The best part for me was just hearing their names called out when they got introduced,” he said. “Kids that have never started before, and to hear their names called with their parents here, just to have that opportunity is great.
“I had guys that came in and did some great things for us. Yeah, they missed some shots, but they also made some really good passes, they played defense. I just want to recognize those guys and the years they put in. Some of them don’t get as many minutes and they still come every day to practice. They work hard. The younger kids get to see that too, because I normally start sophomores, and those guys were on the bench (to start the game) and they get to see these guys and the fruits of their efforts.”
The Chargers (8-17, 4-5 Channel League) got their regulars back in the game after the slow start, and it was junior guard Alex Perez who stole the show on senior night.
Perez poured in a career-high 22 points, which included 13 in the second half. His layup off a highlight-reel, no-look pass from sophomore guard Kael Rillie with 5:16 remaining in the fourth quarter gave the Chargers their first lead of the game at 47-45.
“He does have really good vision,” Zamora said of Rillie when asked about his crowd-pleasing pass. … “Getting so far into the season now and getting into the second round of league, he’s recognizing more of the court. He can make passes to people. He has a great knack for being around the ball. He’s a coach’s son, so he’s been around basketball his whole life. He loves the moment. He wants the ball in his hands. I love it when it’s in his hands.”
Dos Pueblos would never trail again, as it outscored Lompoc, 19-8, in the fourth quarter.
Perez gave the Chargers some breathing room with a layup and free throw after he was fouled going to the basket. It made it 54-47 with 3:32 to play.
“Alex Perez has always been good,” Zamora said. “For a while there he was our leading rebounder earlier in the season until some other guys stepped up a little more. It says a lot about what he does.
“He’s very heady. … He’s just such a dynamo. I mean he makes things go. He gets 50/50 balls, he tries to take charges, he gets rebounds, hits open shots, attacks the basket. He’s not afraid of the big guys.”
Perez admitted that his shot felt good from the beginning of the game.
“I wasn’t expecting to drop that many points,” he said, “but I just felt confident in my shot and I kept driving to the basket.”
With no postseason this year, the Chargers have one more regular-season game on Thursday at Santa Barbara. Zamora joked about the challenge of the game when asked about his season finale against the Dons.
“It’s going to be a lot of fun going over there. I’m glad I get to play (Bryce) Warrecker only one more time and Stephen Davis only one more time and Jackson Gonzalez only one more time, I mean the list goes on,” Zamora said with a chuckle. “I’m looking forward to it, the kids are looking forward to it. We like those crosstown rivalry games. It’s going to be fun. The kids are excited.”