The early-season crosstown basketball matchups Monday night started off the basketball season with a good look at local teams and players.
The Sac-Joaquin Section traditionally sets aside Monday of the first full week of the winter sports season as the date for the SJS Foundation games, a benefit for the section’s scholar-athlete scholarships handed out at the end of the school year.
While the games don’t count on teams’ records, they do count as a chance to showcase what are likely to be the teams’ strengths and weaknesses before the season actually gets underway.
Locally, the Millennium teams hosted Mountain House at the Kimball High Sports Center and Tracy High hosted West in Bill Swenson Gymnasium.
Varsity boys: Mountain House 72, Millennium 45
The Mountain House Mustangs played a consistent game against the Millennium Falcons on Monday at Kimball High, with the Mustangs spreading the ball around so that nearly everyone on the roster had a chance to score.
Mountain House coach Nolan Dixon feels that the Mustangs have all the talent they need to repeat as Western Athletic Conference champions.
“We’re just working on trying to be disciplined. That’s the biggest thing for us. We have enough talent to compete with anyone,” he said.
At this point he wants the Mustangs to be able to speed up or slow down the pace of the game as needed.
“Mainly controlling the tempo, because that’s what we are. We’re a transition team,” he said. “Also, when we get to our half-court sets, stick to our plays and get better looks. We tend to get in a mode where we just shoot a lot of 3’s.”
That’s fine when the team is making those outside shots, but Dixon prefers to see the players go for higher-percentage shots.
“We had a game a few nights ago that we couldn’t hit anything from the outside and that’s the reason we lost the game,” he said. “We ended up losing 5 points because of that.”
The Mustangs controlled Monday’s game from the start. Mountain House had an 11-0 lead before Millennium got on the scoreboard 8 minutes into the game. The Falcons kept up the pace in the second quarter and got within 6 points near the end of the first half, but they were never able to catch up.
Meanwhile, the Mustangs stayed consistent and went into halftime with a 35-27 lead. Returning seniors Tavio Meeks, Keanu Trujillo and Jalen Zeno and junior Nikko Rodriguez led the way, and returning senior David Gomez hit 9 of 12 free throws in the first half on his way to a game-high 11 points.
Mountain House held Millennium scoreless for nearly the entire third quarter, allowing the Mustangs to charge out to a 54-29 lead.
The Falcons picked up the pace again in the fourth, but Mountain House still outscored Millennium, with junior Vignesh Raman scoring all 10 of his points, including two 3-point shots, in the fourth. Zeno and Rodriguez also scored 10 points each.
Millennium coach Mike Woods said the Falcons were subject to first-game jitters.
“We’re trying to work out rotation and all of that. When you come up against teams full of good athletes, you’ve got to play better basketball,” he said. “One, you’ve got to take care of the ball, and two, you’ve got to know your assignments. We’ll get back in the gym and work on that.”
Leading scorers for the Falcons included sophomore Krish Bajwa, 11 points; senior Matthew Ramirez, 9 points; and senior Josh Marlin, 8 points.
“Some of our guys had a lot of good effort,” Woods said. “It’s just that everybody’s got to give the same maximum effort, and then leave it on the floor.”
Varsity girls: Mountain House 35, Millennium 22
The Millennium girls got off to a strong start against Mountain House on Monday, playing to a 9-5 lead at the end of the first quarter. The Mountain House girls came back in the second and third quarters on the way to their 35-22 win.
The Falcon offense lost momentum in the second quarter and stalled out in the third. The Mountain House Mustangs took a 16-12 halftime lead and put up an effective half-court defense to shut out the Falcons in the third quarter and jump ahead 29-12.
Millennium outscored Mountain House in the fourth quarter, cutting the Mustangs’ lead to 35-22 at the end.
Mountain House coach Reno Ursal said that his team was still a work in progress as players adjusted to their roles on the team.
“A lot of moving parts. We need to work on a lot of things,” he said. “That’s part of our challenge, making sure all of the parts that are out there know their roles, and keep that intensity going.”
The Mustangs have seven seniors, including Lyric Moore, who scored a game-high 7 points, and Katelyn Larson, who scored 6 points. The rest of the team also contributed, with 11 of the 13 players scoring for the Mustangs.
“There are definitely some positive students who will make a difference in their own way. We’ll see how it goes,” Ursal said.
Millennium’s scoring leaders were sophomore Maliyah Hutchinson, 7 points; sophomore Alexa Garza, 6 points; and freshman Giovanna Chukwuma, 5 points.
Millennium coach Joe Reyes said the team, which has no seniors this year, is just now starting to find its rhythm.
“The majority of the girls were in volleyball, so I’ve had them for 2½ weeks now. We’ve still got a ways to go,” he said. “I’m happy with the progress we’ve made, but we’ve got a young team, very athletic and very quick. We just need to put it all together.”
“We showed good signs in this game and we’re going to go ahead and continue,” he added, saying that in spite of being young, the Falcons are capable of making the Sac-Joaquin Section playoffs like last year.
Varsity boys: West 99, Tracy 91
The West Wolf Pack won Monday’s SJS Foundation game at Tracy High in overtime in a high-scoring game.
The teams played a close contest all the way to an 85-85 tie in regulation. The Wolf Pack outscored the Bulldogs in overtime, including shots by West seniors Elias Woodward and T.J. Williams , to take the 99-91 win.
Woodward was the Wolf Pack’s leading scorer with 25 points. Also among West’s top scorers were seniors John Patague, 13 points; Jair Siller 12 points; and David Neal Hickman, 11 points.
Tracy’s scoring leader was senior Rasheed Asaf, who put up a game-high 32 points, including four 3-point shots.
Varsity girls: Tracy 35, West 31
The Tracy and West girls battled back and forth, with West taking the lead in the first quarter and Tracy coming back to hold a 16-14 halftime lead. West outscored Tracy in the third quarter, but the Bulldogs took the game back in the fourth quarter for the 35-31 win.
Tracy junior Kayla Vieira was the Bulldogs’ scoring leader with 10 points, including two 3-point shots, and junior Anabelle Hermosura scored seven points for Tracy, all in the fourth quarter.
West High sophomore Zegfried Pangaliman was her team’s scoring leader with a game-high 11 points, and sophomore Ashley Chan scored nine points for the Wolf Pack.