Minutes off the bench have been hard to come by on the Atascadero High boys basketball team this year. That wasn’t the case Wednesday night, though.
The Greyhounds had six reserves score during a 76-43 win over visiting South El Monte at Ewing Gym to open the CIF-Southern Section Division 4AA playoffs with a blowout.
“It was awesome to see them on the court,” starting senior center Sean Slavin said. “Everybody got a chance to play.”
Most of this season, Atascadero (23-3) has relied on a seven-man rotation. It certainly worked as the Greyhounds completed the PAC 7’s first undefeated league campaign in five years.
But in starting the postseason against the Eagles (12-15), the starters weren’t needed for too long.
South El Monte cut the lead to 23-12 midway through the second quarter, but coming out of a timeout, star senior point guard Troy Norris broke free for a layup off an inbound pass that triggered an 8-0 run. It was never close the rest of the way.
At one point early in the fourth quarter, by which time Greyhounds coach Jerry Tamelier had begun to send droves of backups to the scorer’s table, three freshmen were on the floor at once.
“They deserve it,” Tamelier said, “especially the guys that’ve been with us at practice everyday.
“Interesting enough, though, because our squad is kind of small, the three JV players that played for us tonight have come on and practiced with us,” Tamelier said of Armando Rojas, Connor Kim and Joe Johnson. “That was nice that they got this chance.”
Norris finished with a team-best 16 points, freshman wing Robert Berwick had 15, and Slavin chipped in 11. The Greyhounds’ bench accounted for 22 points.
Atascadero led 62-32 at the end of the third quarter and established its largest lead at 74-34 soon afterward.
“What I was really pleased with was the way we moved the ball,” Tamelier said. “Everybody played together, and everybody got some touches and some looks.”
This year’s 12-0 record through the PAC 7 is believed to be the Greyhounds’ first unblemished mark in league play in at least the past three decades.
The historic run has even rekindled what apparently could be a begrudgingly new tradition for Tamelier.
Two years ago, the Greyhounds’ seniors persuaded the coach, who’s now in his 28th year, to shave off his trademark mustache if they won 20 games and at least a share of the league title. That pact was also in effect this year, and earlier this week, players reveled at the chance to force the noticeable change in the appearance of their longtime coach.
“Twenty wins and if we win league, that’s the deal,” Slavin said. “I’ve never seen him without it. It’s really weird looking at him. He doesn’t look like the same guy.”
“Now it’s kind of a precedent,” Tamelier said with a grin. “They get a kick out of it.”
The Greyhounds do expect things to get tougher from here, though.
In the second round at 7 p.m. Friday, fifth-seeded Atascadero will travel to face 11th-seeded Chaminade Prep of West Hills (14-14), whose overall record is deceiving because of the difficulty of its league, Tamelier said.
Chaminade won at Besant Hill of Ojai 67-54 Wednesday.
“I think on Friday we’re going to have a tougher matchup,” Slavin agreed. “Tonight we just played really well. It was a pretty easy win for us.”