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Boys Basketball Previews
Last year: 8-13
Top returners: Wilfredo Gallego, sr., G; Ramon Alcala, sr., G
Key newcomers: N/A
Coach Lance Wagner's comments: “Right now, we're really sharing the ball well and trying to find the open shot.”
The lowdown: Wagner takes over in his first year at Antelope but helped coached the Rams football team. He inherits a pair of senior guards with Gallego and Alcala but said that at this point, they're playing well as a team so there isn't one player carrying the scoring load. Wagner feels that if the Rams work hard, they will certainly be competitive during the season.
Gila Ridge Hawks
Last year: 12-15
Top returners: Marcus Weeks, jr., PG; Kevin McCullough, sr., F; Dillon Chavez, sr., G
Key newcomers: Christian Espinoza, soph., G; Parker Rodriguez, soph., C
Coach Joe Daily's comments: “I'm a big time defensive guy — putting pressure on the ball, causing turnovers and getting out on the break.”
The lowdown: Daily takes over the head coaching duties at Gila Ridge after spending the previous seasons as an assistant at Kofa. Weeks, who was more of a ball handler last season, is expected to become more of a scoring threat for the Hawks. Rodriguez brings a 6-foot-5 frame in the middle and Daily said that the Hawks have been hard at work and bought into the new system. The goal for the Hawks this year? Finish with a winning record for the first time in school history.
Last year: 14-14
Top returners: Javier Caravantes, sr.
Key newcomers: Isaac Coronado, soph.; Manuel Camacho, sr.
Coach Danilo Montialli comments: “The main expectation for the season is to come out and compete night in, night out and give ourselves a chance to win by taking care of every fundamental aspect of the game.”
The lowdown: The Kings have one returner from a season ago, which means Kofa will have several people needing to step up and fill the voids. Kofa narrowly missed the postseason last year but Montialli is confident that with a team-oriented style of play that attacks as a unit, the Kings should have another successful season.
San Luis Sidewinders
Last year: 1-23
Top returners: Angel Robles, jr., F; Alejandro Nogales, jr., G; Israel Coria, jr., G
Key newcomers: Ruben Esqueda, sr., F; Axel Lerma, sr., G
Coach Tim Morrison's comments: “Last year it wasn't a talent issue. It was a lack of effort and basic fundamentals. We're trying to change the culture here and at first it didn't work but now they're seeing how it could work if we do things the right way.”
The lowdown: Last season the Sidewinders had trouble on defense and they're hoping to keep the score down and limit their turnovers — which led to easy points for the other team. Morrison is taking over for the varsity job after spending last season as the JV coach. He says that he has several athletes and is hoping to turn the Sidewinders into a quick squad to help improve on their one-win season a year ago.
San Pasqual Warriors
Last year: 2-12
Top returners: Andrew Lomaintewa, sr.; PG Chris McNeely, soph., G
Key newcomers: Redhawk Welch, sr., G; Dion Twist, fr., G
Coach Jose Encarnacion's comments: “Playoffs or state championships? Probably not any expectations. But we'll definitely have a better year than last year.”
The lowdown: The return of Welch to the Warriors will be a big boost to the San Pasqual team. The guard was a stand-out scorer for the Warriors his sophomore season but decided to not play his junior season. Encarnacion said Welch is a little rusty, but is slowly getting his skills back. Encarnacion said that he has a lot of players with little to no experience and a few players trying to become academically eligible, but the return of Welch and Lomaintewa should be a big boost to help keep the Warriors competitive.
Yuma High Criminals
Last year: 3-19
Top returners: Brian Dixon, jr., SF; Quentin Barley, sr., PF; Alex Juarez, sr., PG
Key newcomers: Jason Pullen. soph., SG; Octavio Rios, fr., PF; Andre Phillips, sr., SG; Deven Thompson, jr., C
Coach Chris Turner's comments: “The basketball IQ of this years team is far ahead of last years team and it is showing in practices and on the court. The boys are all confident that they can go out and compete every single night and I am excited to see what they can do as a whole unit.”
The lowdown: In his second year with the Criminals, Turner said that he's stressing fundamentals and getting into excellent shape. Yuma High returns seven players from last year's team, including the 6-foot Dixon, who was one the Criminals' top scorers. Turner recognizes that the Criminals may be undersized this year, but hopes to make up for it with quickness and a defensive-minded squad.
Yuma Catholic Shamrocks
Last year: 20-11, lost in second round of state tournament
Top returners: Carter Rodriguez, soph., PG; Matt Pistone, soph., PF; Jagan Cleary, soph., SG; Grady Bourguignon, jr., P
Key newcomers: Jaysn Reid, sr., SF
Coach Brooks Neumann's comments: “I'll be honest, I think we're going to be really good. We got 10 really good players and this year our goal is to win a state championship.”
The lowdown: The Shamrocks made an improbable run through the section playoffs considering their youth. With a team that's another year older, Neumann expects Yuma Catholic to thrive on higher expectations. Rodriguez and Pistone both made the Yuma Sun/Yuma Rotary All-Basketball Team last season after their impressive freshmen seasons. While the Shamrocks might be a year or two away from being an elite team in the state, if their young players continue to improve they should turn into contenders this season.
— Jesse Severson