The battle for West Bay Athletic League supremacy has come down to two teams the last couple of years: Menlo School and Sacred Heart Prep.
And when it comes to boys’ basketball, there’s a chance that 2013-14 will bring WBAL fans much of the same — those teams are still very talented.
Or, it could be a completely different story. Last season, the Gators and Knights combined for a 25-3 mark in league play before heading into the Central Coast Section playoffs and making some serious noise.
This season, the two have already combined for 13 losses (after 17 all of last year). Needless to say, the two most successful programs in the WBAL have taken their lumps so far. But is it a sign of things to come or are they teams looking to find their groove right before the start of the regular season?
Yes, the win-loss record isn’t the most attractive thing in the world.
In fact, it’s downright ugly.
But the first thing to know about the Menlo Knights this season is that they’re barely getting to know each other — in a basketball sense. Only five players on Menlo’s roster have played all 10 of the games so far. For chemistry and consistency’s sake, the Knights simply have not had enough time to gel during the non-league portion of their schedule. That would explain the nine losses, more than half of which have come by double digits. Menlo’s lone win was against Gunderson. Still, they’re a team with pride after capturing the CCS Division IV championship last season.
So, the Knights definitely have the pieces to contend. Chief among those is Bobby Roth, a guard who is picking up right where he left off last season when he burst onto the scene. He’s played in all 10 games and is averaging just a shade under 14 points per game while shooting an effective 40 percent from the floor and 31 percent from beyond the arc.
Also is double digits is Liam Dunn, who’s played in eight games this season. He’s been big on the boards for Menlo (four per game) and is pouring in 10.5 points per contest. Senior Wes Miller is also in double digits scoring with 10.6 and he’s big on the glass as well — leading the team at 5.6 rebounds per game.
For Menlo to repeat as champions (they went 13-1 in league last year), they’ll need to gel quick and get even more rebound support from Ryan Young (7.3 points per game and 4 rebounds per) and Alex Grossman (4.7 rebounds per game).
The Knights begin league play against Crystal Springs Uplands Tuesday night.
SACRED HEART PREP (3-4)
As the record suggests, it’s been an up-and-down season so far for the Gators.
A year after finishing second in the WBAL (and bowing out in the first round of the CCS playoffs), they’re started the year with a couple of eye-opening losses — and just about the same amount of eye-opening wins. They lost three straight to begin the season, but have since won three of their last four contests.
For one, the Gators are young — with only four seniors on the roster. And two, SHP is still getting a lot of key pieces to their team back from the state runner-up football squad that played in Carson just a couple of weeks ago. So they, like Menlo, is working on the whole “on-court chemistry” thing on the fly.
They have a couple of great juniors in Corbin Koch and James McLean to lead the charge. Koch is one of the most exciting scorers in the entire county. He’s leading the team in points per game with 19 and rebounds with 10. He’s also dishing out 2.3 assists per game. So, as Koch goes, so will the Gators.
McLean has emerged as a nice complement to Koch. He’s putting up an 11-point, 7-rebound line thus far this season.
But the Gators will need young players like Connor Moses to emerge like Koch did last season to contend. Moses is adding a tad under nine points a game this season while shooting 45 percent from beyond the arc. Defensively, the Gators are pressing a fair amount and it’s showing success (almost 13 steals per game).
CRYSTAL SPRINGS UPLANDS (5-4)
The Gryphon rebuilding process looks like it’s coming together nicely this season.
A year after going 7-19 overall and 1-13 in the WBAL, CSUS is two wins from their overall total of last year. Do they have the pieces in place to make 2013-14 a winning season?
It appears they’ll have to have great shooting nights for that to happen. The Gryphons won’t out-muscle you off the glass, but they do have a couple of guys who can score the basketball. Emmit Hiemstra is going to lead CSUS. He’s averaging 13 points per game and 4.2 rebounds per contest. He’ll need the help of players like Viraj Singh, who’s next on the team with almost 8 points per game.
The Gryphons also have a couple of guys who will have to come up big. Kent Kober and AJ Qiu jump to mind.
It’s the oldest cliche in the prep book, but it’s true — the West Catholic Athletic League will be a grind. In non-league play, seven of the eight WCAL teams have at least seven wins. The only other one, Valley Christian, is still 5-5. So, if you’re a Serra Padre, expect competitive basketball night-in and night-out.
The Padres are 7-3 thus far and find themselves needing to plug a lot of holes since they graduated a core of players from last season’s team that was demonized for four seasons by Aaron Gordon and Archbishop Mitty.
So far, the returns show that Danny Mahoney and Sean Watkins will take up the bulk of the scoring. The two are in double figures for the season.
But Chuck Rapp teams are known for their defense — especially near the glass — and that’s where Serra will have to play out of its mind. As Rapp said earlier after a loss, the team will live and die by the 3-pointer and if you aren’t rebounding in the WCAL, you’re asking for trouble. The Padres will need big seasons from Trevor Brown and Jimmy Wohrer.