There wasn’t any kind of momentous, quick change that transformed the Morro Bay High boys basketball team from worst to first this season.
A 30-points-per-game scorer didn’t suddenly transfer into the district. There wasn’t a superstar brought up from the JV team whom everyone already expected big things from.
Instead, the Pirates’ turnaround — from last place in the Los Padres League standings to outright LPL champions — might be the truest example in prep sports along the Central Coast this year that plain and simple hard work really can pay off.
Heading into its regular-season finale at home at 6 p.m. today against Santa Maria, Morro Bay (15-10 overall) stands 10-1 in league play, having already clinched sole possession of the LPL title.
Last year, with very much the same roster (all but one of this year’s top six scorers were also on the 2009-10 squad), the Pirates finished 8-18 overall, with a 2-10 mark in the LPL, tying Santa Ynez for the basement of the seven-team league.
“We struggled last year, obviously,” senior guard Carlo Green said. “We had pretty much everyone coming back, so we knew we had a lot of experience, and we had a good summer and came in working hard.
“I think it definitely makes it more special,” Green said of going from the bottom to the top. “Last year was rough. At the end of the season we were pretty beaten down, but we came back and had our heads up and competed.”
Last year’s team came into that season without any returning varsity players.
“We were very young last year,” sixth-year coach Dave Yamate said. “We told them going in, ‘It’s a whole different ball game than the lower levels. We’re going to take some lumps. We’ve just got to battle through it and try to learn as much as we can, and next year we’ll come back and you’ll see a huge difference.’ ”
That’s the way it turned out. This is the first league crown for the program since the 1998-99 season, something not even done when current Cal Poly sophomore Dylan Royer was rewriting the school’s record book in the late 2000s. In fact, after looking through some archives recently, Yamate found that the Pirates’ 10 league victories are the most the school has had in 33 years.
“We just wanted to come out, have a good season and have fun,” junior forward Edward Griley said, “but when we went undefeated in the first round of league, that’s when we were all like, ‘OK, we can do this.’ ”
The turnaround has been achieved after the offseason departure of Case Bruton, who led the team in scoring as a freshman before transferring to St. Joseph.
At the forefront of the about-face is the 6-foot-6 Griley. Able to play both forward spots, Griley is averaging a team-best 15.6 points per game on 54 percent shooting, and also has team highs in rebounds (9.9 per game), assists (2.7 per game) and blocks (3.2 per game).
But balanced contributions have keyed the revitalization. Five others — Green, Luke Munds, Luke Holzschuh, Marcus Zorovich and Bryce Owens — are scoring between seven and 11 points per game.
“I said to them, ‘You get to leave your mark and leave your legacy, and every time you walk back into this gym you’re going to get to see up on the banner that you guys brought home a league championship,’ ” Yamate said.
The Pirates were ranked 15th in Monday’s CIF-Southern Section Division 4A poll. They’ll find out Sunday who their first-round playoff opponent is.
“It’s just been really neat, especially after going through such a tough year last year,” Yamate said. “You see two totally different sides of the spectrum. That’s what life’s about, also — teaching them that things don’t always go your way, but if you work hard and battle and you put in the time, you can totally turn it around.”