John Connolly had the ball in the open floor with one thing on his mind.
“I was just looking at the rim,” he said, smiling ear to ear after the San Marcos boys basketball team dismantled Dos Pueblos 64-24 Friday night at DP’s Sovine Gym.
Connolly’s thunderous two-handed jam with 1:18 left in the first half pushed the Royals to a comfortable halftime advantage, but the team had yet another trick up their sleeve.
San Marcos (11-9, 3-1 in Channel League) went on a 21-0 run in the second and third quarters, which included a 16-0 advantage in the third quarter. Connolly led all scorers with 12, while all 14 players who dressed for San Marcos recorded a basket.
“We’re a balanced attack,” said coach Jelani Hicks. “We never really know who is going to be the leading scorer, but usually it’s like one (guy) who has like 15 and the other guys have eight, nine, or 10. That’s been pretty consistent this year.”
San Marcos was extremely active on the defensive end of the floor. They deflected a number of passes, recorded a handful of steals and hustled for most of the loose balls. Each time the ball was up for grabs, at least two players wearing a red jersey were on the floor battling for the ball. San Marcos used its pressure defense to wreak havoc in the backcourt, while switching every screen in the half court to give DP fits throughout the game.
“We have length everywhere and quickness at each position,” said Thomas Kinzler, who helped set the tone early with a pair of layups. “We just feel confident and we trust each other.”
Connolly recorded his first dunk of the season in a tournament in Simi Valley late last year, but said he had been waiting to throw one down in league play. His dunk sent the Royals’ student section into a frenzy.
The 6-5 junior was able to display his many talents, bringing the ball up on occasion and running the offense, as well as crashing the boards.
“Our quote is ‘lock ‘em up, then bust ‘em up’ and I think that’s what we did,” Connolly said. “We felt pretty strong tonight.”
The win came one week to the day that the Royals were left stunned at the buzzer against Santa Barbara. The team was able to regroup in a big way, winning by 26 over Santa Ynez on Tuesday and going wire to wire Friday night.
“We were just fighting for each other,” Connolly said. “I think we just rallied together, leaned on each other, played together and I feel like we got the result we should get.”
Kinzler said the team had one of its best weeks of practice leading up to the cross-town matchup. After a tough loss, some teams may begin to fight amongst each other or play the blame game, but that hasn’t been the case for San Marcos.
“We didn’t separate, we just came together after that and it showed tonight,” Kinzler said.
Shakir Ahmad dropped eight points and Will Pace had seven.
“Everybody was just able to do their job,” Hicks said. “That’s something we always preach, is just be a superstar in your role and I think everyone did that tonight.
“We’ve been harping on playing 32 minutes and I think we did that,” Hicks said, adding that he felt it was his team’s most complete performance on the year.
He was thrilled with his team’s tenacity on defense and the way they hustled throughout.
“That was something we definitely harped on this week, just in general, is that we want to be the gritty team that controls the loose balls, that crashes every rebound, ad we know that against this team if we were able to do that consistently we were going to be able to stifle them a little bit. That’s something we’re definitely going to keep building on that.”
Although it’s a small sample size, the Royals have allowed just 36.3 points per game in league play this season. They are outscoring their opponents by 21 points per game.
For the Chargers, coach Joe Zamora had one piece of advice for his team following the tough loss.
“Just flush it,” he said. “We were two-for-10 from the free-throw line, we missed multiple layups, scoreless in the third quarter… We’ve never had a game like that before. It’s unfortunate it happened during this game, but we’ve just got to move forward.”
Dos Pueblos (6-14, 2-2) just finished Finals Week, but Zamora said that was no excuse for being outplayed.
“They were more physical than us tonight,” he said. “That, along with being bigger. They made some big offensive rebounds and we were forced to take some bad shots at times.”
DP’s sophomore guards, Kael Rillie and Joaquin Riker, were getting their first taste at the cross-town rivalry, which Zamora said was a good learning experience.
Baylor Huyck led DP with 11 points and Alex McCeney had six.
“We talked about ‘put that in your back pocket and learn from it,’” Zamora said. “We’re still top three in Channel League. We’ve just got to lick our wounds a little bit.”