Baler Basketball is in full swing with three girls’ teams and three boys’ teams well into their league seasons. As of the end of January, the freshman girls were 8-4 overall and off to a 2-2 start in league. The junior varsity girls’ team was 9-4, and (3-2 in league) winning a recent game by more than 30 points.
The Lady Baler varsity team, coming off an injury riddled season, is 14-5 overall and recently beat Carmel 47-32 in the Watsonville tournament championship game. Senior Anjelica Collins, coming off a junior year in which she didn’t play much due to injury, had 11 points in the win. Denise Martinez, who missed her entire junior year, added 14 points. After a good win against Monte Vista, Collins said that “we now have a good chance to be first in league.” The Balers led league leading North Salinas after three quarters on January 29th, but lost 65-55.
The entire girls’ program is 31-13 overall, showing that varsity Coach Mitch Burley has built a healthy program.
Many changes this year were made to the boys’ basketball team. The 2012-2013 and the 2013-2014 teams under head Coach David Kaplansky had a lot of talent and won a lot of games. This year was going to be a lot different for first-year head Coach Michael Baumgartner; the team lost four of their five starters and lost their best player Shraee Harrison to injury for most of the preseason and the start of league.
The boys’ varsity basketball team is 5-14 overall but are off to a 2-5 start in league. A big reason behind the wins in league is sharpshooter John Barrientos, a senior who had a game-high 18 points in a 51-48 thriller over Monterey in Mattson Gym. Barrientos said, “We’ve had a lot of injuries and we are barely getting healthy again I think we can do damage in this league and that is the plan.”
Indeed, their star Harrison has only been back in the lineup for two games but his ability to attack the lane will open up open shots for their shooters like Barrientos, who said, “Shraee is the best player in our league,” adding that having him on the court will help everyone else out.
The junior varsity team is 10-7 overall and 2-5 in league. The JV team started out with a 9-2 record highlighted by a win over Harbor in a thrilling game that featured an Isiah Bueno buzzer beating three point shot to win the game. Bueno added that it was one of the best moments in his sports career. The team has three freshmen, including Bueno, that have contributed to the team’s success.
The freshmen team is 6-9 overall and 3-4 in league; having three of their top players pulled up to J.V. is a hard transition for anyone. The team has lost numerous close games and has kept almost all of its games close.
The program has some bright spots, and when asked about the future of the program Barrientos said, “it is a developing year for us, especially with a new coach. We have to learn a new system.” He also added it will take time to get better, and “But trust me, next year these guys will win league (Monterey Bay) and go far in CCS (Central Coast Section), I truly believe it.”