BBK: Dons defend home court, beat Royals to tie for league title

Two seasons ago, Santa Barbara High?s boys basketball teams won just two games.

Tuesday night, the Dons posted their 19th victory and earned a share of the Channel League title by beating crosstown rival San Marcos, 60-50, at J.R. Richards Gym.

Dons forward Jack Baker fights through the tough defense of Paxton Ridgeway for a bucket in the first quarter.

Dons forward Jack Baker fights through the tough defense of Paxton Ridgeway for a bucket in the first quarter.

Jack Baker scored 25 points and grabbed 12 rebounds, and Emilio Gonzalez poured in 15 of his 19 points in the second half to lead Santa Barbara to its seventh straight win and its first home win of a rivalry game this year.

The Dons (19-4, 8-3) can claim the league title outright if they beat Dos Pueblos (15-8, 7-4 in Channel League) in the regular-season finale on Thursday at J.R. Richards Gym.

?It means a lot to me,? said Gonzalez of the huge turnaround from his sophomore year to now. ?A lot of hard work and a lot of practice was put into this. I won two games my sophomore year – Brendan Fay was on that team – and we’ve just been working hard.

“We’re about to win 20 games, hopefully. It means the world.”

Santa Barbara coach David Bregante, who took over the program after the two-win season, said the Dons have more to accomplish.

?I?m happy we?re playing for the league championship on Thursday,? he said.

Rebounding was a key to Santa Barbara?s victory. It outboarded San Marcos 34-16, and grabbed 13 offensive rebounds.

?It?s just our Achilles heel,? San Marcos coach Dave Odell said. ?None of our front line have been asked to rebound much in their careers. We?re asking those guys to do things they haven?t done before, and we?re not very good at it yet.?

Santa Barbara, which lost to San Marcos by 19 points at home in the first round of league play, got off to a good start Tuesday, jumping out to a 10-0 lead. The Dons? tight man-to-man defense forced the Royals to shoot from outside. They didn?t score until the 2-minute mark on a pair of Kevin Hempy free throws and didn?t make their first basket until Hempy scored with 36 seconds left in the period.

?It set the tempo for the whole game, the first quarter,? Bregante said. ?It showed we were going to come out and play, it wasn?t going to be easy and we were ready to play. The worst thing that could happen was for us to be down 10-0. We just came ready to play.?

The Royals shot 1 for 10 from the floor in the first quarter.

?When we played those guys the first two times, we knocked down those shots,? Odell said. ?We dug ourselves that big hole then we played even with them.?

Baker and Gonzalez were a one-two punch on offense for Santa Barbara. The duo combined for the team?s 12 points in the quarter. Gonzalez, however, picked three fouls and went to the bench.

Bregante was concerned, but his team eased his worries by continuing to play good defense and pounding the offensive boards. Baker scored on a pair of offensive rebounds and hit two free throws after being fouled on a putback.

?We didn?t panic,? Bregante said of playing with Gonzalez on the bench. ?We played a whole game without him before. He?s really important; he?s great, great player.?

Hempy kept San Marcos (16-8, 7-4) within striking distance by hitting a couple of shots, including a 3-pointer. The Royals trailed 23-14 at halftime.

Hempy had a solid offensive game for San Marcos, scoring 22 points. Jake Wheelock added 13 points.

?Hempy was awesome,? said Bregante.

Hempy hit a trey to open the third quarter, but any momentum the Royals gained was quickly squashed when Gonzalez answered with a 3-pointer. Baker then drove for a basket to put the Dons up 28-17.

San Marcos, which played the second half without playmaking guard Bryce Ridenour (nursing an ankle injury), finally found a groove as Wheelock scored and Hempy followed with another 3-pointer and a drive to pull the Royals to within four, 28-24 at the 4:14 mark. They came close to cutting it two when Hempy got inside for an offensive rebound but his tip-in attempt bounced off the rim.

Santa Barbara showed its resiliency and responded with consecutive Gonzalez-to-Baker baskets to go up 32-24.

?The crowd and Jack Baker,? said Gonzalez of the difference in the game. ?He really stepped up tonight. I always look for Jack. (At) 6-6, you got to look for him.?

?Jack stepped up big time for us today,? Bregante said. ?Jack had a huge game. He?s been sick and he lost 10 pounds. The last two days of practices, he finally got back to the old Jack. He showed it today.?

Baker said it was great to feel healthy again.

?I?m good now and I think it showed,? he said. ?I had stamina to go all four quarters. I was lacking that the last two games.?

After Paxton Ridgway drilled a 3-pointer for the Royals, Gonzalez again answered with a trey. A power move inside by Baker gave the Dons a 37-28 lead going into the fourth quarter.

If Gonzalez and Baker weren?t enough for the Royals to handle, Jeff Paschke made his presence felt in the fourth quarter. The 6-4 forward passed to Gonzalez for a layup, scored a layup and went to the free-throw line after grabbing offensive rebounds. He gave the Dons a 45-35 lead with about 5:20 left in the fourth quarter.

Hempy?s scoring gave the Royals hope for a comeback.

But Gonzalez wasn?t going to let this one slip away. He made a tough 18-foot fallaway from the left side, scored on an offensive rebound after a missed free throw and sank a pair of free throws to put the Dons ahead 52-42 with 1:40 left.

?Every time we thought we were getting a little sniff of the game, he?d bust a three or have a nice lane jumper,? Odell said of Gonzalez. ?A couple of those were like these mini daggers. He made the big plays when they needed it.?

The Dons made eight free throws down the stretch to secure the victory and a piece of the title.


  1. It was Hempy with the layup to score with 36 seconds left in the first. Odell sure doesn’t like to mention his efforts.