New leaders emerge as boys’ basketball adjusts to loss of three high-scoring star players

Kevin Huang
Junior Harkirat Lally rips the ball out of a Mira Loma player’s hands as juniors Reggie Fan and Cole Johnson guard in the Dec. 15 game.

Having lost seven key players, including last year’s three highest scorers, and with only one senior on the varsity boys’ basketball team, the boys are learning to compensate.

Current juniors Jayce McCain (now playing for Folsom High School), Rick Barros (now playing for Capital Christian), and B.J. Askew (now playing for La Mirada High School in Los Angeles) all transferred at the end of last year.

“Last year’s team was more physical. We had taller, quicker players like Brad (Petchauer, ‘16), Serajh (Esmail, ‘16), (senior) Aidan (Cunningham) and (senior) Adam Dean,” junior Cole Johnson said.

Cunningham and Dean have chosen soccer over basketball in the winter season.

“Last year, we had more experience,” said coach David Ancrum.

Sole senior Jesus Galindo agreed.

“We’re pretty lucky to still have Cole on our team this year. Cole and (junior) Reggie (Fan) have influenced a lot of the freshmen and me as well.”

This year’s team is very young. Of the 11 team members, five are freshmen. And freshmen Jackson Crawford and Aaron Graves are both in key roles.

“Jackson is one of our best shooters, and Aaron rebounds really well. They can both pass well, too,” Galindo said.

Crawford has scored 32 points in five games and has a 100-percent free throw percentage.

Graves has 11 rebounds and five assists.

Ancrum also praised the improvement of freshmen Chris Wilson and Clayton Townsend. “Chris and Clayton’s skills have really improved,” he said. “They are very hard workers. They play hard, and they give 100-percent  all the time”

To compensate for the loss of talent, the boys are working much harder.

The boys’ chemistry this year is better, and they connect more together on the court, Johnson said. The boys work well with one another, because there is no “ball hog.”

Kevin Huang
Junior Cole Johnson defends a Leroy Greene player during the Dec. 5 game. Johnson averages 2.6 steals per game.

“We play more as a unit this year,” Johnson said.

In terms of leadership, Johnson and Fan have stepped up this year.

“Last year there wasn’t a very clear leader since the team was so talented,” Galindo said. “There wasn’t someone who would take the team on his shoulders. But Cole and Reggie have assumed that role. ”

The boys are 2-1 in league. The starters are junior Bryce Longoria, junior Harkirat Lally, Fan, Johnson and Crawford.

The players expect the team to do well in league and hope to advance to sections.

However, Fan stressed that they needed to get their “chemistry” back after winter break.

“We definitely have the potential to (advance to sections). I expect us to win league,” Johnson said.

But there is definitely room for improvement.

“We still need to work on rebounding and boxing out,” Ancrum said.

“We’ve got to work harder on our layups and offensive mindset,” said Galindo.

“We need to work on our ball handling and confidence,” Johnson said.

Ancrum said Graves and  Lally are the MVPs, but others disagree, choosing Johnson and Fan instead.

“Cole is the best player by far,” Longoria said, “Without him our team wouldn’t be nearly as good. Cole basically can do anything for our team that we need him to do. Reggie is also one of the best players. He’s a really good shooter and helps us get into rhythm offensively.”

Although they lost 46-57, the boys’ favorite game of the season was against Mira Loma High School, Dec. 15.

“It was a challenging game and one of the most competitive games of the season,” Johnson said.

“Even though we didn’t win, our defense was amazing because we were able to shut down their main guy,” Galindo agreed.

“That was the first game where we came together as a team and played really well as a group against a good opponent,” Lally said.

Even though it is a rebuilding year, the boys are obviously staying optimistic and looking ahead to playoffs.

By Bri Davies

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