TCAL boys’ hoops preview

A team-by-team outlook as league season gets underway
It’s Hollister and everyone else.

If the non-league start to the season is any indication, that’s the prognosis for the upcoming TCAL boys’ basketball season, which starts with a round of games on Thursday.

After dropping its league opener at Live Oak last season, the Haybalers rolled off nine straight victories and walked away with the league crown. And the bad news for the rest of TCAL is that all-everything center Kyle Sharp returns.

The University of Montana signee leads the area by averaging nearly 30 points a game, and again has scrappy point guard Eric Davis dishing him the ball.

Don’t expect another 9-1 finish by the ‘Balers, though. Unlike last season, the league doesn’t appear to have any patsies this time around. Gilroy and Palma, which combined to win three games in TCAL last year, have already won 21 games this season.

Salinas suffered a rare losing season in ’03-04, but behind senior guard Kelly McCarty (19.8 ppg), have looked solid in the early going. The Cowboys pushed Santa Cruz, the top-ranked team in CCS, to the final minutes last month.

Live Oak, which starts five experienced seniors, gave Hollister its biggest challenge last season and pushed the ‘Balers in the semifinals of this year’s Bob Hagen Memorial. Meanwhile, North Salinas has survived a rigorous non-league schedule behind Eric Petty, Jr. (17.2 ppg). The Vikings looked lethal in winning the recent Steinbach Classic, beating both Alisal and Seaside.

1. Hollister Haybalers

Coach: David Kaplansky

2004-05: 15-2

2003-04: 21-7 / 9-1 TCAL (1st)

Last year’s CCS finish: Lost to Piedmont Hills 54-48 in DI semis

TCAL opener: Thursday at Gilroy, 7pm

Outlook: The ‘Balers will surely make another run at the TCAL title. The team is led by senior Kyle Sharp, who is tops in the area with a 28.7 ppg average. San Benito has also been getting solid contributions from guards Eric Davis and Danny Isaacson.

2. North Salinas Vikings

Coach: Tim Kirkland

2004-05: 8-6

2003-04: 20-10, 7-3 TCAL (3rd)

Last year’s CCS finish: Lost to Mitty 51-44 in DII semis

TCAL opener: Thursday at Live Oak, 7pm

Outlook: Led by talented big men Marco Ramos (6-5) and Eric Petty (6-5), the Vikings should challenge for one of the top three spots in TCAL. Big things are expected from sophomore Orlando Johnson. North Salinas had a solid non-league record despite a tough schedule.

3. Live Oak Acorns

Coach: Brett Paolucci

2004-05: 9-5

2003-04: 22-5, 8-2 TCAL (2nd)

Last year’s CCS finish: Lost to Milpitas 60-32 in DI quarters

TCAL opener: Thursday vs. North Salinas, 7pm

Outlook: Three seniors – Matt van Keulen, Brandon Powell and Doug Porras – power a quick, athletic team that likes to pressure opponents on defense to make up for its lack of height. Live Oak is off to a fine non-league start, winning the Los Gatos High Wildcat Shootout consolation title and capturing third place at Gilroy’s Bob Hagen Tournament. The Acorns beat Seaside 57-50 in their final non-league tuneup.

4. Gilroy Mustangs

Coach: Bud Ogden

2004-05: 11-7

2003-04: 4-21 / 2-8 TCAL (5th)

Last year’s CCS finish: Did not qualify

TCAL opener: Thursday vs. Hollister, 7pm

Outlook: Already, GHS has nearly tripled its win total from last season. And no one can accuse Gilroy of puffing up its record with lightweights, with losses coming to powers Valley Christian, Mitty, Woodside and Monterey. Junior center Ryan Chisolm leads the team in scoring, but it’s a fairly balanced effort and the Mustangs can legitimately go 10-deep – unlike last season.

5. Salinas Cowboys

Coach: Joe Chappell

2004-05: 9-6

2003-04: 10-15 / 3-7 TCAL (4th)

Last year’s CCS finish: Did not qualify

TCAL opener: Thursday vs. Palma, 7pm

Outlook: In the 34th season of the legendary Joe Chappell, the third winningest coach in CCS history, Salinas looks to bounce from a rare postseason absence. Despite turnover and free-throw problems, they’ve gotten off to a relatively solid start. The Cowboys split with Alisal and dropped a close one to St. Francis. They’re top scoring options are senior guards Kelly McCarty (19.8 ppg) and Adrian Krydar (13.6 ppg).

6. Palma Chieftains

Coach: Paul Alioto

2004-05: 10-5

2003-04: 7-17 / 1-9 TCAL (6th)

Last year’s CCS finish: Did not qualify

TCAL opener: Thursday at Salinas, 7pm

Outlook: The bad news? The Chieftains are coming off their worst league record in school history. The good news? They return only one starter. That one starter is leading scorer Dominique Dunham (11.2 ppg), a 5-foot-8 point guard. Palma also welcomes a bevy of players from a 24-win junior varsity team, including 6-foot-5 Theo Jackson and Michael Willrodt, a star receiver on the football team. Don’t be surprised if this group doesn’t finish higher, as evidence by its win at Carmel and close loss to highly regarded Santa Cruz.

– Compiled by Brett Edgerton and Jim Johnson

NOTE: For rosters, please see print edition of the Dispatch.

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