There have been times this season when Dean Tognetti felt like he couldn’t miss. The Christopher High senior combo guard has already amassed three 30-point games for a Cougars squad that entered the week with a 7-5 record, with one of its highlights being an impressive 61-52 comeback win over San Benito in the third-place game of the Bob Hagen Tournament at Gilroy High in early December.
The Cougars trailed by eight points early in the third quarter before unleashing a monster comeback, outscoring the Haybalers 36-19 the rest of the way to win going away. The 5-foot-9, 145-pound Tognetti had 17 points on a near-perfect 6-of-7 shooting, including 4-of-4 from 3-point range.
“The highlight of the season so far was beating Hollister,” he said. “It was a revenge game for us because we blew a lead and lost to them earlier in the year. It was good to get back at them. The difference was the bench (players) came in and did a good job. They allowed us to rest, so by the time the starters got back in the fourth quarter, our legs were fresh and we were ready to get after it.”
Tognetti scored 30 points in a season-opening win over Trinity Christian, a career-high 33 in a victory over Gonzales and 32 in a 75-48 triumph over Sobrato. Tognetti came into his own last year, earning a starting role and displaying flashes of brilliance that has carried over in lengthier ways this season.
The huge scoring outputs aside, Tognetti has been more consistent in every phase of the game, a goal that he set out before the season started.
“I worked in the off-season on everything,” he said. “I didn’t want to focus on just one skill aspect. I try to be an all-around player, where I’m good at driving to the basket, playing defense, rebounding and making good decisions on the court.”
Tognetti woke up at 5:30 a.m. two to three times a week during the summer to strength train and work on his game, a testament to his focus and dedication.
“Dean has been our leader since the summer,” Cougars coach Derek Jensen said in an email to the Dispatch. “He has a tireless work ethic.”
Tognetti credits working with his personal trainer, Robert Otis out of Fact Fitness, for helping him get more explosive and stronger. The strength-training Tognetti put in over the off-season has translated directly to the court, where Tognetti’s agility, quickness and ability to get to the basket off dribble penetration are evident.
Despite producing some prolific scoring games, Tognetti, who is the team’s primary ball-handler along with Travis Romero, has a pass-first mentality.
“I want to get my teammates involved because if everyone is involved, we’re playing together,” he said.
To give a glimpse into Tognetti’s makeup, one has to go back to his sophomore season, when he made the varsity team. But upon realizing that he needed one more year of seasoning to earn heavy minutes, Tognetti opted to return to the junior varsity team. Most players in his position would’ve stayed on the varsity and rode the bench; however, Tognetti knew he would improve at a faster rate if he was on the court.
“I didn’t just want to sit on the bench because I knew I would get better playing as much as possible, even if it was on the JV,” he said.
Tognetti is a big reason why the Cougars have already exceeded their win total from a season ago, when they finished 5-17 overall and 1-11 in the Monterey Bay League’s Gabilan Division, tied for last place with San Benito.
“Last year was such a bad year that you pretty much try to forget everything,” he said. “We didn’t have good chemistry, and that reflected in our record. But the talent level and chemistry is better on this team for sure. We’re a small team, but we have a lot of quick guards. We’re confident we’re going to be much better in league than last year.”