By Jack Davis
The boysâ basketball team has begun the season with a 4-4 record, a start some members of the team have called “disappointing” after the squad opened the season ranked fifth in Southern California by the Los Angeles Times.
Expectations for the team were high after last yearâs CIF Championship and run to the state semifinals. The team boasted five returning starters and lost no key seniors.
“With all the seniors we have and all the younger guys we have who have matured into bigger roles, there is no reason we canât do everything we did last year and more,” forward Nate Bulluck â10 said before the season began.
However, in the Pacific Shores Tournament, the boysâ first tournament of the year, they suffered a disappointing second round loss to Compton.
Later in the tournament, they suffered another loss, this time to unranked Palisades High School, before dropping their next two games to Long Beach Poly and Compton Centennial, respectively.
“We have just been making too many mental mistakes,” Captain Erik Swoope â10 said. “Iâm disappointed with the start weâve gotten off to because I know weâre better than that, but I have faith we will pull in together in time for league,” Swoope said.
Part of the teamâs slow start can be attributed to injuries. Four year starter Austin Kelly â10 still hasnât seen the court because of a torn meniscus he suffered in fall practices, and backup point guard Nick Firestone â10 has also yet to play or practice with the team because of nagging injuries he suffered during football season.
“Not being able to be out there really hurts,” Kelly said. “But Iâll be back in time for league games which are most important, and Iâve got a lot of faith in our team and I know we have the talent and discipline to match everything we did last year,” Kelly said.
The team bounced back from its 2-4 start with two straight victories, including a 72-58 victory over the Compton team which it had previously lost to.
Despite some of the early season struggles, Head Coach Greg Hilliard is satisfied with the way his team is responding under adverse circumstances.
“We are doing well under the circumstances,” Hilliard said. “We are learning to play with key players out and some of the younger players have had to step up sooner than we would have felt was necessary. We found a way to beat Compton the second time and had a miraculous comeback against Huntington Beach.”
Hilliard also thinks his team will be able to quickly rebound from any early season struggles that they have faced.
“We are making more turnovers because of our unfamiliarity with each other in certain positions. However, we are playing hard and have shown signs of that relentless resolve that we had last year,” Hilliard said.
The team does not play again until Dec. 26, at the Dessert Heat Classic in Palm Springs. League play for the squad begins Jan. sixth at St. Francis, a game that kicks off 14 straight league games for the Wolverines.
“League play means everything,” Kelly said. “All the early season stuff doesnât matter if we can just win the league games like we are supposed to, and guarantee ourselves a good seeding in playoffs,” Kelly said.