Four straight wins clinched the Palos Verdes Tournament title and with it, momentum for the boys’ varsity basketball team as it approaches league play. The Wolverines earned double-digit victories over Compton Centennial, South Torrance and Lawndale before winning an overtime thriller against Mira Costa 80-77 in the championship game on Dec. 15.
“It was big,” guard Mike Sheng ’14 said. “Just winning games gives us a lot of confidence after losing some big games against Loyola and Fairfax, who we should have beaten.”
Prior to the Palos Verdes Tournament, the team lost two straight games to Loyola and Fairfax in the Torrance Tournament, where they finished fourth.
“I don’t know that things went wrong, but [the losses] indicated to us where we were,” Head Coach Greg Hilliard said. “In the first two games, we played teams that we probably should beat and we did quite convincingly. We played well, and got very excited about how things were going. Then we played two very highly ranked teams who are much further along than we are, and showed us exactly what we need to get better at by the time the games really matter in league, and as we get prepared for the playoffs. Not all of these early season losses are a bad thing, sometimes they’re a good indicator of how far we have to go.”
Sheng believes improvement on the defensive end made the difference in the Palos Verdes tournament.
“We pressured the ball a lot better on defense,” Sheng said.
Forward Derick Newton ’14 and Sheng lead the team in scoring with 21.4 and 13.1 points per game this season respectively. The duo rose to the occasion in the tournament finals, as Newton scored 30 and Sheng dropped 18 and added five assists.
“They’re two guys that have been there before, and we rely on and they’re consistent,” Hilliard said. “Most every game they’re going to get points for us. The nice thing about it is it seems like there’s a different third, fourth or fifth option every game, which indicates we have really good depth, but at the same time we would like some pattern to consistently develop as to who’s going to step up and be that third option night in and night out.”
Newton finds spreading the floor on offense to be the reason for his consistent play.
“We can be very competitive,” Newton said. “I don’t see anything blocking the top two in league this year.”
The boys will look to improve over last year’s 7-5 record in league. The Desert Heat Classic, starting on Dec. 26, is the team’s final tournament before starting league play at Crespi on Jan. 4.