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When the San Benito girls basketball team takes the court today at Brentwood’s Liberty High School, it will mark the start of a three-day extravaganza called the West Coast Jamboree. This hoops festival, now in its sixth year, includes 144 teams spread over 17 divisions, and will be played at 11 different venues.

The Haybalers (4-4) are entered in the Ruby Division, a grouping of eight schools with similar game results to date. San Benito begins its Jamboree action by facing Castro Valley (2-3) at 2:30 this afternoon. McClymonds, Laguna Creek, North Valleys (NV), Colton, Arvin and host Liberty round out the division.

“We’re just hoping to get some good experience,” said ‘Balers head coach Al Rowe.

By playing three games in three days, San Benito should get plenty of that. Hoping to fine-tune their play with their Tri-County Athletic League season set to begin against Gilroy next Friday, the ‘Balers plan to utilize what Rowe calls “mental basketball,” a concept that boils down to mastering match-ups on the court.

“Our fundamentals are strong, but fundamentals are only half the game,” said Rowe. “We’d just like to play more mental basketball. Analyze the person who’s defending you so that you can beat them.”

And on defense, “push them toward their weakness,” said Rowe. “If they like to dribble right, force them to dribble left.”

After being dominated in the paint in a 56-39 loss to visiting Seaside last week, San Benito hopes to come out and establish its interior presence against Castro Valley.

“We just want to shut down the post,” said Rowe. “We’re small, so we need to box out and try to control the boards.”

On offense, the ‘Balers have been practicing the use of ball-fakes to convert continuation plays–drawing a foul on a made basket to also earn a trip to the free-throw line.

Playing back-to-back-to-back games will also strengthen one of the most critical areas of any team, but especially a team that is undersized and intends to be the aggressor on both ends of the court.

“What’s really, really important is our bench,” said Rowe. “With three games in a row, we can get everyone on the same page. Hopefully, [the Jamboree] is going to make us deeper. That’s what I’m striving for.”

With such a deep and talented field competing at the Jamboree, Rowe plans to take his squad to see some of the high-end action in the Gold Division. In addition honing their skills in game play, the ‘Balers hope to improve by studying the inner-workings of some of the West Coast’s top teams.

San Benito’s well-rounded Jamboree experience, which includes many players staying at a hotel in the Brentwood area, will be that much sweeter should it end with success on the court.

Asked to share his team’s mission this week, Rowe said, “Of course to sweep the three games. That would be the cherry on top.”

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A staff member wrote, edited or posted this article, which may include information provided by one or more third parties.


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