An opening round loss in the Central Coast Section Division II playoffs on Feb. 17 did little to dampen the Gilroy High boys basketball team’s season.
The Mustangs had one of their best campaigns in recent memory, finishing 16-9, including an 11-1 mark to earn a share of the Blossom Valley Athletic League West Valley Division championship. What made their achievement all the more impressive was the fact they were 5-8 after a loss to Overfelt in the league-opener on Jan. 6.
Gilroy proceeded to run the table, winning 11 straight games to close out the league season before its 60-55 loss to Westmont in the playoffs.
“Any time you make the postseason and win a league championship, it’s always special,” Mustangs coach Joe Te said. “The kids who were a part of that this year are definitely very joyous and happy, but we expected it. We were planning on this the whole second half of the league season.”
That’s because the West Valley Division as a C league gets only one automatic playoff berth, so Gilroy knew it had to pretty much win out to win a league title.
“The motivation was there and I’m definitely proud of how the boys finished the season,” Te said. “Their attitude was different [after the Overfelt loss] and it had a huge impact in how we played the rest of the way. We asked them for some grit and defined what it looked like on and off the court and the kids stepped up.”
The Mustangs exacted some payback vs. Overfelt in their rematch on Jan. 25, pulling away for a 56-46 win. Sam Guerrero, Dylan Allinson, Devin Montez, Kaiden Gonzalez and Isaiah Anaya have been steady as the starting five for most of the season.
Guerrero, a 6-foot-2 senior wing, is long, athletic and excels in just about every phase of the game. Just as important, he leads by example in the way he plays and practices.
“Sam is our Energizer Bunny,” Te said. “He has just has an amazing work ethic and it reflects in how he does in games.”
Guerrero typically guards the opposing team’s center and though often smaller, Guerrero holds his own.
“Sam is gritty and is outmanned against teams like Alisal, Leland, Branham, Piedmont, but he did well in all those games,” Te said. “He’s a fighter. I just can’t coach energy and Sam makes my job easy when it comes to that.”
Like Guerrero, point guard Montez has been a stalwart on the varsity for the last three years. Te credited Montez for working hard in the off-season to make a noticeable improvement in his game.
“Last summer Devin stepped up as a leader and worked on his game a lot,” Te said. “He understands what it takes to be a point guard.”
Anaya has emerged as one of the team’s best shooters, and Te said when the senior is on, he can score a flurry of baskets in a short period of time.
“Isaiah is a scorer that can really change the game around,” Te said.
Allinson has a high basketball IQ, Te said, and he helps the team execute well on both ends of the floor.
“Dylan is the smartest kid and probably the least talented of all the seniors,” Te said. “But he knows what to do, knows every assignment and everyone else’s assignment, and knows the scouting report of every other team. And that’s why he needs to be on the court all the time.”
Even though the starting five is the engine behind the team, Te said key reserves such as Danny Sanchez, Juan Cervantes and Gavin Powers give the squad a huge boost whenever they’re in the game.
“Our bench has really accepted and embraced their role and made a huge impact in the way we play,” Te said.
Gilroy is a senior-dominated group and Te will miss this year’s class dearly.
“Our senior crew this year has been very steady,” Te said. “They define what a program does because they have stuck with it through discipline, perseverance and some of the adversities they’ve gone through, they’re just awesome kids and I’m going to miss them a lot. We don’t have the height, talent and speed that some of these CCS teams have, but I wouldn’t trade these guys for the world. They have a lot of heart and play with passion, and that is something that is going to stay with them the rest of their lives. I love them all to death and they came out fighting no matter what.”