Dons, Royals work on faster style at Westmont Tournament

The San Marcos and Santa Barbara High School basketball teams may have big goals for the 2013-14 season, but they?re going to have to achieve them without big players.

A result of graduating key post players, both teams have been left with smaller lineups. They are using the summer to adjust to a faster, guard-oriented style of play.

?We?re playing a totally different style than we have in the past,? San Marcos head coach Dave Odell said. ?We are trying to run, we are trying to trap, we are trying to press, and we?re just trying to play good pressure defense.?

Santa Barbara High's Jack Baker, pictured driving to the basket during a summer league game, is a returning First Team All-Channel League player for the Dons. (Presidio Sports Photo)

Santa Barbara High’s Jack Baker, pictured driving to the basket during a summer league game, is a returning First Team All-Channel League player for the Dons. (Presidio Sports Photo)

Both teams competed in the Westmont College Summer Boys Basketball Tournament last weekend. Though both teams were noticeably undersized, San Marcos made it to the semifinals of the tournament before losing 57-41 to Sonora, who then went on to defeat Santa Barbara in the championship game 55-47.

But for Odell and Santa Barbara head coach David Bregante, developing a strong unit is more important than winning championships during the summer.

?We only have three players returning to varsity, so summer is all about getting guys experience and teaching new guys how we want to play,? Odell said.

Odell?s San Marcos team graduated 6-6 power forward Kevin Hempy, who averaged 11.9 points and 6.6 rebounds per game during his senior season. The First Team All-CIF and All-Channel League selection led the Royals to last year?s CIF 3AA semifinals.

The San Marcos team that played at Westmont last weekend, however, featured a five-guard lineup, with Bryce Ridenour listed as the Royals’ tallest player at 6-2.

?We were missing five guys? and three potential starters? so we are a little bit bigger with those guys here,? Odell said. ?Christian Widmer and Wesley Gibson give us about four more inches at each of those positions.?

The 6-2 perimeter players Widmer and Gibson will certainly help the Royals get bigger at the off-guard positions, but even with the increased height, San Marcos does not have a true center. Odell said that the team will rely on Ridenour, Widmer, and Elijah Johnson to defend the paint.

?We have a couple of guys who can jump, so they play a little bit bigger than they actually are,? Odell said. ?We?ve played against a couple tall guys and it hasn?t seemed to be too bad? we?ll see what happens when we have to face a 6-8 guy.?

The Royals ran a balanced, five-man passing game, and used a stifling man-to-man defense to win four out of five games at the Westmont tournament. San Marcos also relied on several underclassmen to step up over the weekend.

Josh Rodriguez - Sonora Raiders Basketball

Sonora’s Josh Rodriguez led the Raiders to the tournament title on Sunday at Westmont College.

?Scott [Everman] is only going to be a sophomore, and he is so skilled, he can be really valuable to us,? Odell said. ?We brought Thomas Hantgin up, who is going to be a freshman, he has been great, and Tyson Miller has also been great. We have some great young players in this program, and depending on how things shake out with injuries, we?re still not sure who is going to be in that rotation come November.?

Santa Barbara, on the other hand, has a pretty good idea of who is going to be in its lineup during the regular season. According to Bregante, the team had most of its key players during the Westmont tournament.

The Dons also lost some height after graduating their 6-4 center Emilio Gonzalez. Gonzalez was named Channel League MVP after the Dons beat out Dos Pueblos to win their first Channel League Championship since 2006-07. Gonzalez led the Dons with 15 points and 11 rebounds per game during the season.

Instead of relying on Gonzalez?s post presence, Santa Barbara will look to swing player Jack Baker to provide the bulk of the offense. The versatile Baker played everything from point guard to center for the Dons over the weekend, and Bregante spoke highly of his efforts. Baker and San Marcos’ Ridenour are the only returning First Team players in the Channel League.

?He means everything to our team,? Bregante said of the rising senior. ?He?s got size, he?s very athletic, and he can be a great player. We depend on him for rebounding, he takes away the middle on defense, and he blocks shots.?

Santa Barbara used Baker at the high post for a hi-lo look, but he also showed that he could hit the outside shot, drive to the basket, and kick the ball out to the other guards.

The Dons also experienced success with a 1-2-2 full court trap press that forced turnovers and allowed for a transition-oriented offense. Like San Marcos, Santa Barbara relied on a quicker, fast break offense when they could.

Andrew Fay - Santa Barbara High Dons Basketball

Santa Barbara High junior Andrew Fay used his outside shooting to be one of the Dons’ leading scorers in Sunday’s championship game.

?We?re very small, and somehow we have to create opportunities for ourselves, so we will have to pressure teams a lot,? Bregante said. ?We don?t have any Emilios so we are just going to have to make some adjustments and play to our strengths.?

Santa Barbara also depended on a host of young talent to support Baker and the other veterans like Noah Burke and Isaiah Tapia. Newer players expected to be in the mix are David Trujillo, Andrew Fay, Bolden Brace and Ben Clay.

?We have two sophomores and several juniors on the team who are trying to make the transition to varsity,? Bregante said. ?Things are happening faster, kids are bigger, stronger, more aggressive, and the summer is a good chance for them to see what the speed of the game is, how aggressive it is, and what?s in store come fall.?

Even though both teams have experienced success with their new styles of play thus far, neither San Marcos nor Santa Barbara could get past?Sonora, who won the Westmont tournament for the fifth time in six years.

Sonora, a CIF Division 3-AA team that was 25-4 last season, was led in the championship game by to-be-junior point guard Josh Rodriguez.

Sonora lost to Santa Barbara on Friday before improving as the weekend progressed, culminating in wins over San Marcos and Santa Barbara on Sunday.

Though neither San Marcos nor Santa Barbara won the championship at the tournament, both proved that they can win without height. Both coaches emphasized the importance of developing their younger players, as well as adjusting to their new style of play over the summer.

?I think what we are trying to do [over the summer] is establish our identity as a team,? Odell said. ?I think that because we were so different last year, we were taller but we were slower, what we are trying to do is become who we are, and that?s what is so great about the summer. We play a lot of games, and it?s a fun time to figure out who we are.?

WESTMONT TOURNAMENT RESULTS


SUNDAY

Championship: Sonora 55, Santa Barbara 47
Santa Barbara def. University
Oak Park 56, Pacifica 31
Sonora 57, San Marcos 41
Brethren Christian 57, Villanova 25

SATURDAY

San Marcos 56, Pacifica 39
Sonora 60, Oak Park 51
Santa Barbara 62, Brethren Christian 50
Brethren Christian 64, University 53

FRIDAY

San Marcos 54, Villanova 14
Sonora 64, Brethren Christian 45
Pacifica 63, Villanova 23
Santa Barbara 51, Oak Park 33
San Marcos 58, University 57
Santa Barbara 69, Sonora 47
University 56, Pacifica 36
Oak Park 63, Brethren Christian 41

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