After a rough start, things are trending upward for the San Benito High boys basketball team. Since losing their first two games of the season, the Haybalers have won three of their last four contests, including a thrilling 52-51 overtime win over Hillsdale of San Mateo on Tuesday.
“We feel a lot more confident about ourselves now,” Balers point guard Davonte Butler said. “We’ve got better ball movement, we’re communicating more and things are starting to click.”
Ryan Quinby, who has been a ferocious rebounder, hit a putback at the buzzer to give the team one of its most memorable wins in the last couple of years. The Balers showed plenty of mettle, rallying from an 11-point deficit in the first quarter.
San Benito continued its improved play after it finished in third place in the Bob Hagen Tournament. The Balers knocked off tournament host Gilroy High, 71-60, in the third-place game. They opened up the tourney with a 65-45 win over Live Oak before dropping a 49-42 decision to an undefeated Aptos squad.
Against Live Oak, Sergio Sanchez put up 10 points in a 23-point second quarter that propelled the team to a runaway victory. Nick Christian had a game-high 21 points followed by Butler’s 15 points. Coach Mike Baumgartner said Butler was not at full strength coming into the game, but said Butler gave a game effort.
Early in the fourth quarter, Butler was taken off the floor and was noticeably upset that he was being subbed out. But Baumgartner simply reminded him that the game was well in hand.
“He wanted to come in and do everything for us, so I had to slow him down a little bit,” Baumgartner said. “Everything’s going to run through him. He’s a great kid. We’re lucky to have him.”
Despite being an all-tournament selection, Butler was not satisfied with his play against Live Oak.
“I wanted to finish the game on a positive note because I didn’t feel like I was helping the team like I usually do,” Butler said. “I felt like I was turning the ball over too much, and I wanted to fix my mistakes. But I understood what coach was doing.”
Christian had 15 of his 21 points in a decisive second half, including nine points in the third quarter that helped keep Live Oak from making a big run.
“He really is turning into moving the ball and being really aggressive getting into the paint,” Baumgartner said. “He’s developed into a well-rounded player with his defense and rebounding.”
Against Gilroy, Christian had 16 points, while Butler and Corbin Bies had 15 points each. All of Bies’ points came from beyond the arc, giving the team a huge boost from the perimeter. Christian scored 46 points in three tourney games, Quinby was a force on the boards and the Balers had one of their best outside shooting performances in recent memory, connecting on 11 3-pointers.
Butler has helped set the tone defensively, and Sanchez has been a revelation, coming on strong in every phase of the game.
“He’s doing a little bit of everything to make the team better,” Butler said.
Live Oak tried to make things close in the fourth quarter, but San Benito clamped down defensively, forcing the Acrons into eight turnovers and limiting them to just six points. Baumgartner said the key to riding out the third quarter just came down to focusing on individual possessions and keeping true to fundamentals.
“I told them they’re going to make a run and we have to withstand that and do what we do better,” Baumgartner said.
The Balers started getting aggressive on defense, which took Live Oak out of its game.
“We were playing aggressive,” Baumgartner said. “We were making our extra rotations on defense and playing aggressive. I don’t mind fouls if we’re playing aggressive.”