The Christopher and San Benito boys basketball teams entered Wednesday’s Monterey Bay League game winless in the Gabilan Division with 0-5 records. Safe to say, the Cougars and Haybalers knew this was their best shot to finally earn a victory.
In the end, it was the Balers who pulled away for a 55-46 win.
“There was a lot of relief (in the locker room afterward), but a lot of smiles, too,” Balers coach Mike Baumgartner said. “These kids have been working hard, and they deserve something like that.”
Davonte Butler scored a game-high 22 points, including 16 in the second half. San Benito’s senior point guard answered every time Christopher threatened to take the lead in the fourth quarter. The Balers led 39-38 when Butler hit a jumper from the left wing.
Minutes later, when Christopher was within two points, 41-39, Butler hit a teardrop runner in the lane. After the Cougars scored on the ensuing possession, Butler ran down the center of the court on the inbound and scored on a layup after receiving a terrific length-of-the-floor pass from Ryan Quinby.
One of the critical junctures of the game came with San Benito leading 49-44 with 1 minute, 21 seconds remaining. That’s when the Cougars were whistled for a foul and then a technical foul after one of their players jumped high from the bench and landed in the court of play, drawing an automatic tech.
San Benito was in the double bonus, so Butler was awarded four free throws (he converted three).
“That was a big momentum killer because we were doing a great job on defense and making things happen,” Christopher coach Derek Jensen said. “I felt like we might be able to push the tide back in our direction and swing it back our way. But really, I think turning point was the second quarter.“
Indeed, the Cougars led 16-10 after the opening quarter only to see the Balers outscore them 15-6 in the second period. The Balers went to a zone defense, which Christopher had a difficult time deciphering initially.
“We really struggled to adjust to their zone in the second quarter,” Jensen said. “Once we made our adjustments from then on we were fine against the zone. But our struggle to adapt and figure out the zone in the second was really the changing point.”
Chris Burnette and Dean Tognetti led Christopher with 17 and 13 points, respectively. Noah Alvarez finished with eight points. Burnette managed to muscle his way inside the lane, especially in the second half. Tognetti started for the first time in several games and was a force both offensively and defensively.
“Dean is a big difference maker for us on both ends of the floor,” Jensen said.
Christopher’s coach added that he’s confident the team will respond in the second half of the league season, which starts Friday against North Monterey County.
“With all of the adjustments being made, the kids are confident they can have a better second half of league play,” Jensen said. “And as a coach I’m very confident with some of growth we’ve made that we’ll have a solid second half of the season.”