Brainy Royals trounce DP on Senior Night, 67-46

They’re a smart bunch, that’s for sure.

The senior class on the San Marcos boys basketball team carries a 4.0 GPA, and coach Jarrod Bradley thinks his squad might have a shot at a CIF Academic Championship this year. They were able to translate their classroom prowess into passing a test on the hardwood Tuesday night, taking out Dos Pueblos 67-46 in front of a packed house at the Thunderhut.

With the city championship now taken care of, the Royals (18-4, 6-1) have put themselves in position to win a Channel League title. Thursday’s matchup at Ventura will decide who wears the crown.

San Marcos junior Johnny Manzo goes up for a shot.

“The Channel League title would be much, much better than being city champs. All we have to do is play like we did tonight when we play Ventura,” said senior Bryant Koopmans, who finished with seven points including two 3-pointers that erupted the San Marcos student section.

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Although Koopmans was chest-thumping and hollering after both makes, the Royals played with stoic confidence in nearly every aspect of the game. They drove to the basket fearlessly, they worked out of the DP press without panic and they hit their free throws — which they’ve done all year. As a team, the Royals went 21-for-28 from the line.

J.P. Dodson, who led the way with 15 points, went 9-for-11 from the charity stripe after a 21-for-23 performance last week against Buena.

“These guys have played basketball for a long time, and it’s all about confidence for them,” said Bradley of the free-throw shooting. “They’re not thinking about if they’re going to miss.”

Dos Pueblos (13-11, 5-3) had been missing 6-foot-9 center Malik Heptot the last time the two teams met, a 59-46 San Marcos win at Sovine Gym. Although the big man was back for the Chargers this time around, DP never seemed to find any offensive rhythm. Jay Larinan was all-hustle the whole evening en route to 19 points, but Heptot and Matt McClenathen both found themselves in early foul trouble and finished with just seven points each.

“He needs to have a lot more offensive put-backs for us,” said Chargers coach Joe Zamora of Heptot. “And our other guards and forwards didn’t really make themselves available to him tonight.”

In the previous meeting, McClenathen scored 26 points and was called “the best player in the gym” by Bradley. Both he and Heptot were called for two early fouls, and Heptot got his third with a minute to go in the first half, leaving him on the bench until midway through the third quarter.

Larinan hit a pair of free throws to put DP up 16-14 with 1:15 to go in the first quarter, but San Marcos closed the period with four straight points thanks to a turn-around bank by Thayer White and a pair of Dodson free throws. Christian Mkpado, who battled hard against Heptot in the post all night, grabbed one of his many offensive rebounds and put it back early in the second. Soon after, he received a lob from Dodson near the rim and laid it in to put the Royals up 24-21.

Chad Ridenour then scored six straight points for the Royals, burying a trey, hitting a free throw and finishing off a fast break with a lay-up that made it 30-23 in favor San Marcos. Koopmans hit his first 3-pointer at the halftime buzzer, sending the hosts off the court with all the momentum with a 37-25 lead.

“It’s always a blast to play in front of our home fans in a big game like this,” said Koopmans. ‘We’ve worked really hard for this, so it feels great.”

Johnny Manzo hit a big three for San Marcos with 3:51 left in the third that put the Royals up 45-29. San Marcos stayed focused and never let the lead shrink below 10, actually growing it down the stretch thanks to nice moves to the bucket by the likes of Manzo, Mkpado and Ridenour. Koopmans hit his second trey with 1:45 in the game to send the score to 62-44.

The Royals’ student section started its celebratory chants in the final minutes, reminding the Chargers that they were down by 20 points. Zamora said he didn’t think the crowd negatively impacted his players.

“We’ve played in front of bigger crowds at places like Mater Dei. They were fun to listen to — until the end,” he said.

Both teams will be in the playoffs, and Zamora said he thinks his Chargers will be able to sneak under the radar a bit with their 13-11 record and hopefully do some damage.

Bradley, meanwhile, has a league title to try for first.

“Our division (in CIF) is stacked. For us right now, we have one thing in mind, and that’s Ventura,” he said.

SAN MARCOS 67, DOS PUEBLOS 46

DOS PUEBLOS — Miranda 2, McClenathen 7, Nelson 7, Larinan 19, Heptot 7, Mestas 4. Totals 17 12-20 46.

SAN MARCOS — Manzo 9, Kirkwood 5, Guild 3, Koopmans 7, Mkpado 14, Ridenour 11, Dodson 15, White 3. Totals 20 21-29 67.

Dos Pueblos…16  9  8  13 — 46

San Marcos…18  19  9  21 — 67

3-point goals — DP 2 (Nelson, Larinan). SM 4 (Koopmans 2. Ridenour 1, Manzo 1). Total fouls — DP 20, SM 15.

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