Gilroy High's Danny Sanchez dishes the ball to an open teammate during the Mustangs game against Sobrato High in BVAL Santa Teresa East Division action on Jan. 10. (Jonathan Natividad/Free Lance)
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After a league championship and a playoff appearance, the Gilroy High boys’ basketball team moved up a division. 

With eight seniors graduating, the strength of that performance put on caps and gowns and left. 

The new Mustangs are starting to jell in the challenging Blossom Valley Athletic League Santa Teresa East Division. They currently own a 5-11 overall and are off to an 0-2 start in league play, but things are coming together.

“We’re a little below average, so far,” Gilroy head coach Joe Te said. “We had a tough schedule and we have been missing guys due to illness. It’s a brand new team. We have nine seniors but seven are new. Buying in is taking time. They have started playing together as a group. Offensively, defensively and transition. Our execution is good.”

In 2022-23, Gilroy finished with a 16-9 overall record and went 11-1 in the lower BVAL West Valley Division.

The Mustangs advanced into the Central Coast Section Division II playoffs, where they lost to Westmont 60-55. That season is in the record books. 

And this campaign is coming together with wins coming against Soledad, Live Oak, St. Francis, North Salinas and Yerba Buena.

In league play, the Mustangs dropped a Jan. 10 home match to Sobrato, 54-40, and then headed to Morgan Hill where they lost, 58-52, in a thrilling rematch with the Acorns the following day. 

To illustrate how tight the league is, league leader Sobrato scores an average of 49.4 points per game and allows 51.8, while Gilroy is in last place but scores 43.1 and gives up 52.1. 

Not much difference there. 

In last week’s loss to the Bulldogs, the Mustangs fell behind early by 10 points and the rest of the contest went back and forth. A few more finishes at the rim and a couple outside shots going through the net can make all the difference.

“I like to run,” Te said. “Though it depends on how we’re playing and who we’re playing. We don’t have a lot of size. We have Danny Sanchez, a returning first-team all-league player. He’s our point guard, a good defender, can shoot the three and loves to penetrate. Gavin Powers is our shooter and he’s a backup point guard. Josh Aldape is 6-foot-5 and he controls the paint inside.”

Aldape led the Mustangs with 12 points in their contest against Sobrato, while Sanchez added seven and Kaiden Gonzalez tallied five points. 

Rafael Abarquez provided a spark with two buckets in a third-quarter rally. However, Sobrato pulled away as Gilroy missed four free throws and a dunk to hinder the comeback.

Versatility and contributions across the floor are key to the Mustangs’ success. Cameron Fernandez, Jayden Guerrero, Ricardo Figueroa and Miko Blanza all play prominent roles. 

Depth also comes from Michael Graef and Dominic Cefalu. 

With that crew and others, Te can apply full-court pressure, half-court double-teams and have fresh players diving after loose balls or going hard to the boards for rebounds.

“I feel we did pretty good,” said Aldape, after their game against Sobrato. “Our teamwork is good. We played as a team more today. I like how Danny (Sanchez) got passes to everyone. We need to work on our shots. If we get that down, we’ll win.”

Sobrato was paced by the sweet shooting of 6-foot-2 senior guard Trey Miller with 20 points and the inside play of 6-foot-4 senior center/forward Aidan Mollenhauer with 10 points. 

On the perimeter, guard Anthony Sapien added 10 points and guard Vince Madriaga ran the offense at point, scoring nine points.

When the Mustangs drew close late in the third quarter, Sobrato went to their two big forces. Miller drained a triple from the top, Mollenhauer scored inside off a Sapien feed and Miller sank a 10-foot jumper. The Bulldogs had re-established a comfortable lead.

With the win, the Bulldogs (8-8) improved to 2-0 in the league standings after beating Gilroy and Leland in a 45-43 overtime thriller. 

“Credit to Sobrato,” Te said. “For us, we had tons of good stuff but we missed too many shots. We did everything right but not finish. And I think we missed about 10 free throws.”

With the new players connecting better and more practice time together without illness absences, the Mustangs look for steps forward.

Next up, the Mustangs will host Leland in league action on Friday at 8pm.

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