Dos Pueblos did just about all it could to slow down Bryce Warrecker Wednesday night, but in the end the reigning Channel League Co-MVP had the last laugh.
Warrecker scored a game-high 30 points to lead the Dons to a 70-60 victory over Dos Pueblos at Sovine Gym.
The Chargers used multiple defenders to try and slow down Santa Barbara’s 6-9 star. Water polo standout Ethan Parrish got the rare start for DP and took the first crack at Warrecker, but Parrish subbed out just a few minutes into the game after Warrecker scored seven of the Dons first nine points in the early going.
Cole Collins, Alex McCeney and even Kael Rillie tried their best to slow Warrecker down, but the big man was able to hold his own down low. Even as DP’s Baylor Huyck got things going from the outside, Warrecker was able to step behind the three-point line and hit with ease.
“This whole season I’ve got to see a lot of different looks offensively,” Warrecker said after the game. “My teammates have done a good job of trying to get me open and keep the ball moving and making sure the other teams can’t double team me too easily. But every time I get the ball I’m trying to get the open look. It’s kind of what I’ve learned to deal with since last year.”
Warrecker was able to establish himself in the early going, scoring nine in the first quarter. Huyck drilled three 3-pointers in the opening period, but Santa Barbara (14-7, 5-0 Channel League) jumped out to a 16-11 lead.
The Dons led by as many as five points in the second quarter, but the Chargers (6-15, 2-3 Channel League) were able to stick around. Rillie hit a floater in the lane with 2:44 left in the second quarter before drilling a three with 1:40 left in the first half to make it 24-22. Warrecker scored on consecutive possessions for the Dons, before Miles Thompson banked in a three pointer just before the half to give Santa Barbara a 31-26 advantage at the break.
Huyck’s 3-pointer with 5:05 left in the third cut the Dons’ lead to 38-36, but Santa Barbara used a 10-0 run as they started to pull away. Jackson Gonzales drilled a 3-pointer with 3:54 left in the third. After a Warrecker basket, Cole Ekler scored off an offensive rebound before Stephen Davis nailed a 3-pointer with 1:30 left in the third to give Santa Barbara a 48-36 lead.
The Dons maintained an 11-point advantage heading to the final quarter. Davis got things started with an elbow jumper to push the lead to 13, and a few minutes later Davis converted on the second of two free throws to put Santa Barbara ahead by 16. As they did all night long, the Chargers continued to rally.
Huyck made a pair from the free-throw line before Joaquin Riker finished off a reverse layup. Cole Collins split a pair of free throws to bring DP within 11 with 4:14 left.
Warrecker nailed a 3-pointer before Huyck answered with a three of his own with 3:39 left. The Dons big man hit again from behind the arc with just over three minutes remaining to give Santa Barbara a 64-50 lead.
Trailing 66-52 with 2:15 left, McCeney and Huyck hit back to back triples to trim the deficit to 66-58 before Davis converted from the foul line to close out the game.
After the game, the 6-foot McCeney laughed when asked what it was like guarding Warrecker down in the post.
“You’ve just got to try and front him, hope you have help on the backside and hope he misses,” McCeney said.
Huyck, who finished with a team-high 25 points, said he’s been playing with and against Warrecker his whole life and guarding him has never gotten easier.
“He’s always been huge, so we just try and do whatever we can to try and stop him,” Huyck said.
Dos Pueblos was coming off an embarrassing 64-24 loss against San Marcos last week and coach Joe Zamora said his team’s performance Wednesday night was “night and day” compared to last week.
“They responded well and wanted to share the ball,” Zamora said. “They bought into the defensive plan, with the exception of we gave up way too many points to Warrecker. I don’t have an answer for 6-9, but I felt there were a couple of buckets he got that were way too easy, like the slip to the middle, the corner three. The assignment broke down, but they ran the game plan.”
Zamora said his team got up hundreds of jump shots during practice earlier this week after failing to register a basket in the third quarter against the Royals. He also called for his team to be competitive and aggressive and not play scared.
“The resilience of the kids to want to come back and say ‘hey, that was not us’ was great to see,” Zamora said, adding that he was encouraged with his team’s performance as they prepare for its second time through league play.
For Santa Barbara, Davis finished with 15 points and Jasper Johnson added eight. Erik Strandberg finished with seven points for the Dons, who were without Vance Baldwin who missed the game due to injury.
Coach Corey Adam said the team didn’t put forth its best defensive effort Wednesday night, but credited DP for its hot shooting.
“We obviously didn’t play a perfect game, but it’s about what we can do to get better,” Adam said. “Everybody has to take a look in the mirror, own up and take responsibilities from their mistakes, and there were plenty of ‘em.”
It was the final game for the Dons before their rematch with the Royals. Santa Barbara defeated San Marcos 45-43 Jan. 10 on Johnson’s game-winning layup at the buzzer.
Warrecker, who is still wearing a protective mask after suffering a cut to his nose, expects Saturday night’s 7 p.m. matchup with the Royals at Santa Barbara City College to play out much like the first game.
“It’s going to be a battle from the tip to the last buzzer,” he said, adding that there would be no way he sits out because of his injury. “To let a bruised nose bother me, that wouldn’t be fair to my teammates. Being able to play through that is the least of my worries.”