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Varsity basketball rebounds after early season disappointment

The varsity boys’ basketball team struggled at the start of the season as defensive lapses and turnovers turned an optimistic season into a rollercoaster of highs and lows.

However in the last two weeks, the team managed to pull together a three-game winning streak (Jan. 21- 28) and optimism returned especially after defeating Caruthers, 52-43, on Feb. 5.

Yet when the Eagles lost in overtime to Fowler on Jan. 31, the Eagles lost an opportunity to move into a first place tie with the Redcats and Caruthers.

Their sporadic winning seems to be identical to their performance on the court. Scoring can be as irregular as the game against Fowler when the Eagles scored 29 points the first half and only five points the third quarter.

C.J. Haydock, ’03, shot a three-pointer that put the Eagles ahead 42-41. With seconds left, the nuthouse went crazy as the Eagles tied the score at 47 to advance into overtime. And while the Fowler defeated the Eagles, 52-49, the team’s disposition changed. The loss does not seem to bother them.

With a strong first half, the Eagles jumped out to a 26-20 lead over Caruthers in a rematch of the Jan. 10 game. Jon Steele, ’03, scored 22 of his 30 points to pace the visiting Eagles.

Defensively the team held the Blue Raiders’ top scorer, David Singh, ’03, to only 5 points. Singh stung the Eagles in the first meeting for 25 points.

Coaches and players said that getting back to basics contributed to the win on Jan. 24 over Mendota (50-42) and has spurred on the team, building confidence for the 64-51win against Firebaugh on Jan. 28.

“It started after our (49-38) loss to Caruthers on Jan. 10. That was our season low,” Steele said. “After losing there we made a commitment to pull together as a team and work towards improving ourselves. Our turnovers were killing us.”

Co-captains Steele and Haydock, both guards, are leading the team. Steele’s average of 21 points per game and Haydock’s supporting role seem to carry the team.

“Three seniors?Jon, C.J. and Evan play a big role,” coach Christopher Schultz, said. “They’ve been playing together for three years and their performance has been exceptional.”

Haydock has been playing basketball for 12 years and has been playing varsity ball since his sophomore year.

“Basketball is something to be passionate about,” Haydock said. “When you step into the gym all the other turmoil and wrong things in life are forgotten. Basketball is the only perfect thing in my life.”

Haydock is thinking of walking-on a college basketball team and one day he hopes to coach. As for Steele, he looks forward to playing either basketball or baseball. Both are currently focused on finishing the season strong.

With almost half the season left, the team top priority is to solve any problems that caused the loss to Fowler.

“We put ourselves in a hole early,” Schultz said, “but we did manage to comeback. In the future we need to be able to execute our offensive plays. Turnovers have also been a problem, but fortunately this game was one of our lowest in turnovers.”

Nathan Yockey, ’03, is determined to improve by keeping the ball from his opponents.

“I had a school record of 11 turnovers against Tranquility on Jan. 21,” Yockey, said. “I need to get back to the basics. When the ball is in my hands, it will not go to the other team.” However, the team still beat the Tigers, 67-46.

The team also learned of the hardships they face when a key player is shut out of a game.

“Fowler tried to take Jon out of the game by sticking two of their guys on him,” Schultz said. “They succeeded and no one else stepped up to work our offense?without Steele, we repeatedly missed shots.”

The team next hosts Riverdale on Feb. 11. The Nut House and Blue Lagoon are planned for all remaining home games.

The team’s overall record is 13-9 and their West Sierra League record 4-4 as of Feb. 5. The team is currently third in the W.S.L. standings.

Beth Yanez

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