In the locker room following a first half where he missed more 3-point attempts than he’s accustomed to, Arroyo Grande High guard Cobe Williams told himself to be more aggressive — no matter if he was pulling up from long range, driving to the hoop or passing to a teammate.
A 16-point third quarter in which seemingly everything the 5-foot-11 senior put up found the bottom of the net was the reward for his change in attitude.
Williams scored a game-high 28 points, including five triples, Jack Hogeboom had 12 stabilizing first-half points, and the Eagles ran past visiting St. Joseph, 66-52, on Friday night to end the first half of PAC 8 play with their fifth straight win.
“Every game is important to us, but we started off league with two losses,” said coach Ryan Glanville, whose team opened the PAC 8 schedule with defeats to league frontrunners Mission Prep and Righetti. “At that point, we had to regroup and talk about just winning games one at a time and seeing what we can do.
“A couple weeks later, we’ve won five in a row, so I’m really proud of our kids and how they’re coming along.”
Arroyo Grande (10-9, 5-2) and St. Joseph (14-6, 4-3) both came into Friday’s contest with 4-2 league records, and after the Knights took a 23-20 lead into the second quarter, the Eagles’ hot shooting and active defense helped them pull away.
“We just pressured the ball and denied passing lanes,” said Williams, as the Eagles forced five turnovers in the second quarter and seven in the decisive third. “I think our on-ball defense is getting better as the season moves along, and it was just a good effort.”
Entering the third quarter trailing 32-30, Williams hit his first three 3-point attempts of the half and the Eagles forced four early turnovers, including a steal-and-score from Keanu Morrison to help open up a 50-36 lead.
“We take every game one at a time, but we had some extra enthusiasm going into this game,” said Hogeboom, a 6-2 sophomore who hit back-to-back 3s when Arroyo Grande trailed by eight in the first half. “We only had one day to practice (after Wednesday’s 65-41 win over Atascadero), but we put extra emphasis on this game.”
Speedy sophomore guard JoJo Walker scored 20 points for the Knights, including three free throws and a late 3-pointer to pull St. Joseph within 50-44 heading into the fourth.
That’s when the Eagles’ big men made their mark.
Morrison, an athletic 6-3 forward, had a volleyball swat for a block on a Walker layup attempt and had two buckets in the frame. Senior Ian Alvarado — Arroyo Grande’s tallest player at 6-5 — came off the bench to score five fourth-quarter points to seal the game.
“Our bigs are aggressive,” Williams said. “Our guards do a good job penetrating, and we’re able to find our bigs for some layups and some and-ones like we did tonight.”
Williams was the prime facilitator, using a convincing pump fake to penetrate or rising up and firing a pass down low rather than launching a shot.
“He’s definitely getting to the rim more, and that’s something he’s been working on ever since he was a freshman on our team,” Glanville said. “He can get to the rim now, he can still shoot the 3, and he’s still one of the best passers around. When you put that all together, he has a lot of weapons.”
Morrison finished with eight points, Bradley Mickey had seven, including a mid-court steal and fastbreak layup, and every Eagle that played made at least one field goal.
“This game — we circled it on our schedule,” Williams said. “We made the point that if we win this game, we have a chance to take off some of the top teams.”
Now the league schedule resets, and Arroyo Grande faces the only two squads above it in the standings — home against Mission Prep on Monday and at Righetti on Wednesday.
“They’ll have a good practice (today), and they’ll be excited for Monday night,” Glanville said of his Eagles. “We’re still trying to take it one game at a time. We are getting better every week, which is what I’m most excited about.”