After logging thousands of travel miles during the preseason and testing their mettle in tournaments all over California and Nevada, the Nevada County prep boys basketball teams are ready for league play.
Nevada Union, Bear River and Forest Lake Christian all made the playoffs last year in their respective divisions, and all three have their eyes firmly set on reaching the post season again. But before they can get there, they need to navigate the difficult trials that await them in league play.
Here is a quick recap of how the Miners, Bruins and Falcons did in the preseason and what to expect as they tip off the league season.
Current record: 7-10
2011-12 record: 16-12, 6-4 SFL
2011-12 SFL finish: Tied for 2nd
Even as they head into Sierra Foothill League play, the Miners are still reinventing themselves.
Injuries and player departures have forced NU to constantly adapt during the preseason. The ability to adapt is a trait that head coach Jeff Dellis hopes will serve the Miners well throughout a very difficult league schedule.
“There has been a lot of growth,” Dellis said of his team’s travails. “We got a great group of kids that has faced quite a bit of adversity. They’ve been knocked around a bit, but they are stronger because of it.”
NU is minus last year’s top scorer, Ian Davis (14.1), who left the team early in the season, and has been plagued by injuries, which led to nine different starting lineups in the Miners’ first nine games.
But with the SFL season just around the corner, NU is as healthy as it is going to get, said Dellis.
Sean Zuccaro and McKay Ritchie, who saw limited action throughout the preseason with nagging injuries, are both back and ready to go.
Zuccaro and Ritchie are both savvy guards who add another scoring threat to the NU offensive attack.
The Miners will need all of their weapons in league play because in 17 preseason games, the Miners only had one win against a team with a winning record, River Valley (9-8).
The good sign is they have a strong home record (6-2) and faired well in losses to strong teams like El Camino (10-6) and Galena of Reno (15-3).
In NU’s first 17 games, the two constants have been Cody Gardner and Lucas Vojak.
Gardner does it all for the Miners. The senior guard usually defends the opponent’s best player, he can play any position on the floor, and he is capable of hanging 20 points on the board.
Vojak, a 6-foot, 8-inch junior post player, is improving every game and has the potential to score 20 points and grab 10 boards a game.
The Miners have also been getting strong play from junior Nolan Stefani and senior Elliot Fournier.
Stefani is an outside threat with great athleticism, and Fournier does a little of everything as far as rebounding, playing defense, scoring and controlling the tempo. Controlling the tempo is something Dellis said his team will have to do if it hopes to contend in the SFL.
“Everybody wants to push in this league,” Dellis said. “With every game, we are getting better and better at handling the pressure.”
The SFL offers a troublesome road to the top as all teams but the Miners finished the preseason with a winning record.
Roseville had an amazing preseason, going 15-2, averaging 76.4 points per game while allowing just 57.8 points per game.
Last year’s SFL champ Del Oro (12-5), Rocklin (12-5) and Granite Bay (11-6) all had impressive preseasons and are ranked in the MaxPreps Sac-Joaquin Section’s top 20 as they head into league play. NU is ranked No. 75 (there are 180 teams in the section).
The Miners open SFL play at 7 p.m. Today when they travel to Woodcreek (9-8).
Current record: 13-3
2011-12 record: 12-15, 4-6 PVL
2011-12 PVL finish: Tied for 3rd
The Bruins opened the 2012-13 season winning 10 of their first 11 games and are currently No. 36 in the MaxPreps Sac-Joaquin Section rankings and No. 2 in the section’s Division IV rankings behind rival Colfax, who defeated Bear River 67-53 at the Kendall Arnett Tournament in late December.
The Bruins’ fast start is thanks in large part to senior Justin Beskeen. The senior post player who seems to float through the air is averaging a team-high 22.5 points per game and has scored 30 or more points on four different occasions. The 6-foot, 6-inch forward also leads the team in rebounds with nearly seven per game.
Michael Raigoza has also stepped up for the Bruins, taking on the role of floor general, much to the delight of head coach Duwaine Ganskie.
“He has had key moments in all of our games,” Ganskie said. “There have been so many times where he rights our ship.”
Through 16 games, Raigoza leads the team with 5.6 assists per game and 2.4 steals per game. The 5-foot, 9-inch senior also chips in 6.3 points per game.
Not to Ganskie’s surprise, senior forward Travis Anderson has stepped up throughout the preseason to give the Bruins a solid second scoring option. Anderson averages 9.5 points per game with a strong post game and decent mid-range jump shot.
At times when the Bruins have struggled to get their offense going, Tyler Hajewski has come off the bench to give them an outside shooting option. Hajewski averages 5.7 points per game, can hit the 3-ball and isn’t afraid to hit the glass, pulling down 4.2 rebounds per game.
With all the things the Bruins have going for them, they are still headed into a very difficult and balanced Pioneer Valley League schedule.
Colfax (14-3), Lincoln (13-4) and Placer (13-4) have all looked good in the preseason and Center (5-10) and last year’s PVL champs (6-10) are better than their records indicate, said Ganskie.
“I’m not sure our league has ever been as balanced as it is now,” said Ganskie. “Center and Foothill are better than what their records indicate. Center is young but has a lot of talent, and Foothill is used to winning.
“Everybody is just as good as every body else.”
The Bruins enter league play at 7 p.m. today on a three-game win streak and will travel to take on Lincoln.
Forest Lake Christian
Current record: 11-5, 1-1 CVCL
2011-12 record: 16-12, 7-5 CVCL
2011-12 CVCL finish: Tied for 3rd
The 2012-13 version of the Falcons fly fast on offense and swarm quickly on defense. And 11 times out of 16, it has worked to Forest Lake Christian’s advantage.
FLC’s pressure defense led by Chase Augustino and Brandon Camacho saw the Falcons open the season with eight straight wins and go 10-4 overall in the preseason.
The Central Valley California League tipped off last week, and the Falcons took a huge step toward winning their first CVCL title since the 2008-09 season by beating last year’s champ, Sac Waldorf (8-6, 0-3 CVCL). The Falcons took a slight step backward in their second game, losing by 18 to much-improved Woodland Christian (12-4, 2-1 CVCL).
If the Falcons are to soar to the top of the league standings, it will be because of their press defense along with their run-and-gun offense that has served them well in the preseason.
Augustino and Camacho average four and 3.9 steals per game respectively for a Falcon defense that averages 14.4 steals per game.
On the offensive end, Augustino, a junior, leads FLC with 16.1 points per game and Camacho, a senior, is right behind him with 15.4 points per game.
Luke Jordan, who just started suiting up after enduring the 30-day sit-out period for transfers, is averaging 12.5 points per game through two contests.
Even though the Falcons are stacked at the guard positions with Augustino, Camacho and Jordan, they lack size in the paint.
Roman Makovey does do a good job of playing bigger than his small frame would suggest, scoring 6.8 points per game and pulling down 4.8 rebounds per game, second on the team to Jesse Poppin with 6.8 per game.
Poppin, the other Falcon post player, scores 6.3 points per game when healthy but hasn’t played since Dec. 28.
So far, there are two teams in the CVCL without a league loss. Delta is 3-0 in the CVCL after concluding a 6-5 preseason, and Victory Christian is 2-0 in the CVCL after a 5-8 preseason.
The Falcons’ offense is averaging 63.4 points per game through 16 contests, second in the CVCL to Woodland Christian’s 65. FLC’s defense is where it will need to improve as it gives up the third most points in the league (59.5 points per game).
The Falcons continue league play at 8 p.m. today when they host Cristo Rey (7-7, 1-2 CVCL).
To contact Sports Editor Walter Ford call (530) 477-4232 or email him at email@example.com