For the Pacific Point boys basketball team, its Central Coast Section playoff matchup with Oakwood on Feb. 15 was more than just another game—it was about the players competing for something greater than the names on the back of their jerseys. They were playing for a friend who never got the chance to represent his school’s colors on the court, but had an unrivaled effect on the team this season.
In July 2017, Josiah Duyao, one of the team’s top prospects and the son of the team’s strength and conditioning coach, was killed in a car accident. His memory and legacy would end up inspiring a team, his friends and his school all season long, For someone like Artavious Martin, getting to play in the CCS tournament was all the more meaningful because of what could’ve been.
“He would have been here playing for us, so that’s why we wanted to come out and give it everything we’ve got,” Martin said after the team’s 67-41 loss to Oakwood in a Division V playoff opener. “That’s why we’re thankful we were even able to make it to the playoffs and play this game against Oakwood, and we’ll just learn from this.”
The game was an emotional one, with Pacific Point fighting hard for four quarters, but ultimately losing out to a much more experienced Oakwood squad.For Pacific Point coach Joseph Lampkin, the loss to Oakwood was just a minor dent in an otherwise successful season. Pacific Point accomplished this in just its second season as a varsity program, with most of the players who came into the program having never played organized basketball before.
“I’m really impressed,” he said. “We started the season off with kind of a silly loss and we just got better and better every game. We fought really hard every time we went out there. We have no seniors on our team, our young guys really had to become men throughout the year, and that was impressive. I’m just super proud of them.”
Assuming the entire starting lineup returns next season, Pacific Point could make a major move up the league standings. Lampkin said the team made huge improvement off the court as well.
“We had a lot more help (from the parents), hosted a lot of home games and had a Homecoming game,” Lampkin said. “It was a really, really, really good year.”
Lampkin is particularly proud of his team captains—young in age but mature in experience—leading by example on the court.
“We have two team captains, Deandre Jordan, one of our forwards, and Artavious Martin,” Lampkin said. “Deandre is a junior, he started playing this year, and Artavious is a sophomore who really brings a lot of energy and has had a huge impact on our team in terms of fighting and leaving it all out there.”
Despite the loss, it was these two young players—along with the entire roster—who never let up while on the court. Jordan, who is relatively new to the team, was thrust into the captain’s role because of his age and ability on the court, and is still trying to come to grips with his leadership on the court.
“Being a leader is definitely not natural for me,” he said. “I’ve had to work on that a lot, just getting able to coach from the game. I notice things on the court and I try to call them out to my peers.”
Martin, who scored a team-high 22 points, believes that coming from a small school has actually helped his game improve over the last year.
“We absolutely have a lot more confidence because we’re coming from a much smaller school than any of our opponents,” he said.
Lampkin understands that the size of his school limits the players on his team, but he makes sure that what the team may lack in depth, it makes up for in hard work. When asked about what the secret was to getting the most out of his players, he said, “Leaving it all out on the court and treating every game like it’s our last. We play a lot of schools that are four times as big as us. The way we go out there and fight like there’s no tomorrow is impressive and essential for us to keep it up.”
Perhaps the person in that gym who could best understand what Lampkin was feeling was Oakwood coach Kort Jensen, who helped start the basketball program at Oakwood and was all too familiar with the challenges that coming from a small school pose.
“Ten years ago when I got here, we had four kids on the basketball team, we had to beg a fifth one (to come out and play) and we lost every game that season,” Jensen said. “I had come from coaching high school and college and my wife asked me, ‘Why are you doing this?’”
However, things turned around for the Oakwood program through the persistent work of Jensen, resulting in the Hawks becoming a perennial force in the CCS Division V playoffs.When asked about what advice Jensen had for Lampkin, he said, “Be patient. Every year you try to win a few more games, (but) it just takes a while to change the kids, the culture and the parents.”
Indeed, if Pacific Point continues on the trajectory they are on now, with no players graduating and returning standouts in Jordan and Martin, next season could be an opportunity to build on the successes they enjoyed this year. Though they may be small, Pacific Point will always step on the court with just a little more to play for, because for them, playing to win means playing for Josiah — a legacy that will live well beyond this season.