After COVID-19 induced disruptions that lasted nearly a month, the San Marcos High boys basketball team returned to the court with its full complement of players and defeated visiting Santa Ynez 62-46 on Tuesday night.
Even before the Santa Barbara Unified School District suspended extracurricular activities the Royals were dealing with the absence of several players and their head coach Jelani Hicks due to COVID-19 protocols. The Royals were relieved to be back on the court.
“We were a little rusty. It was our first home game since November so it was a combination of things at play,” Hicks said. “This is my first game since the December Christmas tournament so getting everybody back and playing in a game was important. That’s a competitive team. They want to beat us.”
San Marcos jumped out to an early 12-2 lead following a pull-up jumpshot by Jaden Ramirez with 3:30 remaining in the first quarter, but from that point on Santa Ynez began clawing back into the game.
An offensive rebound and put-back by Landon Lassahn capped off an 11-0 Santa Ynez run that gave the Pirates a 13-12 lead at the 7:01 mark of the second quarter.
“We allowed the emotions of the game to kind of get us going and then when things started going wrong I think the emotions actually took the game away from us too,” said Santa Ynez head coach Walter Tyler. “We had too many turnovers and that’s what killed us.”
Tyler, who has been coaching under a cloud of controversy for much of the season as the Santa Ynez Valley Union School Board mulled his removal confirmed that he will be coaching the team for the remainder of the season and then he will reevaluate his future with the program.
According to Assistant to the Superintendent Terry Westfall the complainants that sought his removal withdrew their appeal.
There were four ties and five lead changes in the second quarter alone as the two teams went back and forth, but a 7-0 run by San Marcos punctuated by a transition layup by Shakir Ahmad gave the Royals a 28-21 lead with just over a minute to play in the second quarter.
Ahmad led the way for San Marcos with a game-high 20 points.
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“He’s been our engine. He’s our most consistent player and we kind of go as he goes,” said Hicks of Ahmad. “At the same time we have a senior heavy team. We have eight seniors and a lot of them have been getting a lot of time.”
With momentum going against the Pirates a step-back three-pointer by Jackson Ollenburger just before halftime trimmed the Santa Ynez deficit to 28-24 at the break.
Ollenburger led Santa Ynez with 19 points, including four three-pointers.
“We played against them last year in league play and then we were able to play with them over the summer in club basketball so we knew they were going to be tough. They’re not going to stop and they are highly competitive,” said Hicks of Santa Ynez’s leading scorers Lassahn and Ollenburger. “I think we did a good job on Landon and Jackson still got some of the shots he wanted to get so going into the next game we got to tighten that up, but ultimately even with the shots that Jackson made they were all tough and he earned everything he got.”
The game remained close until midway through the third quarter, as San Marcos scored eight consecutive points to take a 45-36 lead into the fourth quarter.
The Royals extended their lead in the fourth quarter behind relentless full-court pressure that forced Santa Ynez into a flurry of turnovers. San Marcos senior center Aidan Mandel punctuated the victory with a thunderous two-handed dunk in the final minute of play.
Mandel, who did not play basketball last season finished with eleven points.
San Marcos (8-9 overall, 1-0 Channel League) will host rival Dos Pueblos on Thursday beginning at 7 p.m. Santa Ynez (10-8 overall 0-3 Channel League) will travel to Cabrillo
Cabrillo 52 Santa Barbara 42
Cabrillo jumped out to an 18-6 lead and the Dons never recovered. Luke Zuffelato led the way for Santa Barbara with eleven points. Mikey Denver and Luke Gonzales chipped in eight points apiece.
Dos Pueblos 52 Lompoc 51
The Chargers are the No.1 ranked team in CIF-SS Division 4A and survived a road test against Lompoc in their Channel League opener.