The Atascadero High boys basketball team has won 18 straight games and is headed to the CIF-Southern Section Division 3AA quarterfinals, but coach Matt Knudson walked away from Friday’s 51-45 home victory over San Marcos knowing his second-seeded Greyhounds were capable of more.
“It was closer than it could have been,” he said. “If we could have executed better on offense, we could have done a lot better.”
Atascadero struggled mightily on offense for large stretches against the Royals, including a scoreless drought that lasted more than half of the fourth quarter and allowed the visiting team to get within 42-40.
San Marcos had length and athleticism to challenge the Greyhounds on the perimeter and at the rim, but Knudson said it wasn’t the Royals holding Atascadero’s offense back.
It was Atascadero.
The coach said his team should have been “sharing the ball and looking for teammates instead of being selfish.
“All around, guys were looking for themselves instead of their team.”
The Greyhounds, helped by a raucous student section and a packed Ewing Gym, jumped out to a 9-0 lead, forcing six turnovers in the opening four minutes.
But once the Royals settled down, they brought the pace down with them, frustrating Atascadero at every turn.
“I’m so happy we won, but I feel like we escaped with that one,” said Atascadero senior guard Robbie Berwick, who finished with a team-high 14 points, but was hit with a technical foul in the fourth quarter for shoving a player after the whistle. “Because they played a lot harder, a lot better defense and were more prepared than us.”
The score was tied at 26 at halftime before Atascadero (24-2) outscored the Royals (17-11) 16-9 in the third quarter due in large part to back-to-back
3-pointers from Jared Stuedemann — both of which came in the flow of the Greyhounds’ offense.
“There were spurts of passing, looking for each other and playing great team ball, but it wasn’t consistent enough for us to be a great team,” Knudson said. “We played good, but we didn’t play great.”
Nearly the entire fourth quarter lacked the creativity and free-flowing movement that helped the Greyhounds breeze through league play with an unblemished 12-0 mark.
“We got stagnant on offense,” Atascadero’s Joe Johnson said. “We’ve got to work the ball a little more and get better shots.”
After Bryce Ridenour made a 3 to cut Atascadero’s lead to 42-40, the Greyhounds used their defense and free-throw shooting to see another day.
Atascadero scored seven of the next eight points, including a layup from Berwick, two free throws from Stuedemann and three foul shots by Johnson.
“We played really solid defense toward the end of the game, which really helped us stay in the game,” Johnson said. “That’s really the reason we won.”
Scott Everman, a 6-foot-6 sophomore, scored a game-high 17 points for San Marcos, but was held to four in the second half.
Stuedemann finished with 13 points, Johnson had nine, and Kevin Woodard had six to go along with seven rebounds.
The Greyhounds will travel to seventh-seeded Western or 10th-seeded Servite on Tuesday.
“(Our offense) is a pretty easy fix,” Johnson said. “We’ll come out here (today) or Monday … and try to fix it to the best of our ability.”