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Kings finish Sidewinders' season with blowout
San Luis isn't exactly a basketball school, but coach Guillermo Flores has made efforts the past few years to change that.
The latest step happened Friday, when the Sidewinders played Kofa in the regular-season finale for both teams during school hours. The gym was packed with San Luis students and also acted as a fundraiser for the basketball team. Everything was going well. At least, until tipoff.
The Kings scored the first 17 points and never looked back in a 50-23 win.
The victory likely secures a playoff berth for Kofa (15-9 overall, 12-5 AIA, 7-3 Gila Valley Region) when the Class 5A Division I State tournament begins Feb. 22. For the Sidewinders (9-17, 5-12, 2-8), the loss closes the most successful season in school history on a disappointing note, Flores said.
“The outcome wasn't what we wanted today, but I'm proud of the team,” said Flores, whose team set school records for both wins in a season and region wins in a season. “They played tough this season. I told the kids today ‘Don't hang your head down low.' Even though this outcome isn't what we wanted, we still accomplished a lot and we should be proud of it.”
Kofa coach Danilo Montialli said he was pleased with the way his team handled the atmosphere.
“We knew it was going to be a great atmosphere with all the students in the crowd,” Montialli said. “We came in with the mindset knowing this game was very important to us to make it to the state playoffs. We've been on the road for most of the season. There was one stretch we didn't play at home for eight weeks. We took the challenge and the kids stepped up on the defensive end.”
Despite the early deficit, the crowd stayed involved for a lot of the game — particularly whenever senior Alan Pina touched the ball or prepared to check into the game.
“We were pumped up for this game,” Pina said. “I know basketball here in San Luis isn't big ... but I hope by next year we can have a really big fan base like this.
“We fought hard and that's all that matters,” he said. “It was just an atmosphere we want to build. We've improved a lot since a long time ago, and we don't want to be in the cellar anymore. We're going to keep climbing. By having a big crowd, it will motivate us to play even better.”
Pina scored just two points, but was one of only three players to score for the Sidewinders. Orlando Lopez had 10 points and 12 rebounds but shot just 5-for-20 from the floor. Mark Ochoa had 11 points and six rebounds on 4-for-14 shooting, although he shot 3-for-9 on 3-pointers.
For Kofa, Charles Weekly had 13 points, Vitor Managutti had nine points and seven rebounds, and Daniel Santana scored 11.
The Sidewinders didn't have an answer for the Kings press early, committing 18 first-half turnovers that led to 20 Kofa points. The Sidewinders missed their first 17 shots before Lopez, who didn't start so the five Sidewinder seniors could all be on the floor to start the game, scored on a putback.
“It's always a great thing when you start off dictating the pace of the game, the intensity of the game,” Montialli said. “The kids got out there for the first six minutes. It was a great effort in the first half for us.”
The last quarter was played under a running clock, which takes effect when a team goes up 30 points. The Sidewinders outscored the Kings 5-4 in the quarter.
Even though it was a lopsided loss, Flores said he thinks not just the game but the season as a whole was a step forward for the Sidewinders.
“We're trying to build a program out here, and to get that many people in the stands is a bonus for us,” Flores said. “I wish we would have played a little better.”