The Santa Maria High boys basketball team remained unbeaten in the 2019 Jim Bashore Holiday Cage Classic, winning both games Saturday by a combined four points.
Following the Saints dramatic 79-76 victory over Thacher on Friday, the squad continued to play well in crunch time. They defeated Carpinteria 80-78 with a layup at the buzzer before outlasting Foothill Tech 67-65 on Saturday evening.
In the early game, the Saints and Warriors combined for 27 three pointers, though it was a layup by junior Justin Gutierrez as time expired that gave Santa Maria the win.
“We were just trying to get open,” said Gutierrez, who finished with 28 points. “There were only two seconds left and we were just trying to get a prayer shot and luckily it worked out for us.”
In the late game against Foothill Tech, Santa Maria made 11 first-half three pointers to open up a 43-31 lead at the break. The Saints hot shooting continued in the third, as they built a 57-42 lead before the Dragons staged a comeback and went on an 11-0 run to make it 57-53 after three.
Foothill’s Bodhi McDonald scored eight of his team’s 12 fourth-quarter points and had the Dragons within two with 1:25 left. Senior Daisean Leekins converted a layup with just over a minute left to give Santa Maria a 67-63 lead before Foothill’s David McCarthy scored off an offensive rebound with 40 seconds left to make it a two-point game.
The Dragons were able to get a stop on defense and had a chance to tie the game, but the Saints hunkered down on defense and did not allow a shot attempt before the buzzer sounded.
“I’ve been playing basketball my whole life and nothing has ever happened like that,” Gutierrez said about his team’s close wins in the tournament. “It’s exciting and I wouldn’t trade it for anything.”
After the game, Saints coach Dave Yamate was impressed with his team’s resiliency and how they continued to fight despite losing a big lead.
“The style that we play is tough to do, when you have three games in two days because we press, shoot a lot of threes and your legs start to go,” he said. “You saw that in the second half, shots were a little bit short, but they stayed with it and made the plays when they had to and I’m proud of the way we’re going right now.”
With multiple guys who have spread the floor and knock down shots from the perimeter, Yamate said that as long as they remained locked in on defense he will allow them to continue to play freely on offense.
“That’s why they get the green light,” he said. “As long as you play hard in the press and work hard you get a lot of freedom on offense. I think the kids really enjoy playing that style.”
After heartbreaker, Warriors take down Thacher
After falling to the Saints at the buzzer in their first game, the Warriors were able to come away with a 69-62 win over Thacher Saturday evening.
Sophomore Mateo Handall scored the final six points for Carpinteria against the Toads, including four at the charity stripe to close out the game. Dylan O’Neill continued his hot shooting, scoring a team-high 22 points in the win. Luke Nakasone added 18, including 13 in the first half, to pace the Warriors.
Carpinteria led 29-26 at the half and opened up a six-point advantage heading into the final period. O’Neill, Handall and Nakasone each drilled three pointers to give Carpinteria a 56-46 lead with 4:25 left in the game. A floater by senior Ian Reed put the Warriors ahead 61-49 with under three minutes remaining before the Toads made their run.
Thacher’s Marcus Balanco scored the next five points to draw the Toads within nine with 2:13 left. Tyler Vondriska and Skyler Nova each nailed three pointers to make it 63-60 with 1:20 to go before Handall closed out the game with a layup and four free throws.
After the game, Nakasone said he feels as if the team is coming together at the right time and was happy to see the Warriors rebound after the tough loss earlier in the day.
“I just feel like we’re not the type of team to put our heads down,” he said. “We’re all pretty mentally tough.”
Bishop picks up pair of victories
After dropping its first game of the tournament to Atascadero on Friday, Bishop Diego was able to bounce back and earn two wins on Saturday. The Cardinals defeated Hueneme 68-46 before a dominating 65-39 win over Grace Brethren in the afternoon.
In the second game, the Cardinals only held a nine point lead over the Lancers at the break, but an 18-0 run to open the third quarter blew the game open. Freshman Luis Fernandez finished with 13 points, including nine coming in the third quarter alone. Sophomore Kai Morphy scored 17, while Anthony Villa had a team-high 18 points.
Grace Brethren dressed only six players and had two go down with injuries. The team was forced to play only four players for much of the second half.
Following the game, Bishop coach James Coronado was happy he could get some of his younger players some varsity experience. At one point, the Cardinals had four freshmen and one sophomore on the court and they were able to extend their lead.
“I think it’s going to be good for us in the long run,” Coronado said. “It’s a huge bonus for us for the young guys to come in and hit shots. It sparks the defense and it gets the bench riled up, so it’s great all the way around.”
In other tournament action, Atascadero defeated Grace Brethren 68-38 before the Greyhounds defeated Hueneme 49-40. Thacher won 58-41 over Foothill Tech.
Bishop will take on Carpinteria at noon Monday for second place, while the Saints will square off against Atascadero at 1:30 p.m. for first place. Both games will be played at Carpinteria High.