After suffering a bad ankle sprain during the preseason, San Luis Obispo High senior Alex Chai is starting to find his bounce on the court again. Good news for San Luis Obispo, bad news for Morro Bay on Tuesday night.
Chai tied his career high with 14 points for San Luis Obispo (7-1) to lead all scorers in a 68-25 win over Morro Bay (2-3). The win was the teams’ sixth win in a row.
“Alex is one of our leaders without a doubt,” San Luis Obispo coach Jeff Brandow said of Chai, who also had 14 in Monday’s win over Bishop Diego. “He’s a 6-foot-3 guard, but he’s strong. He had a bad ankle sprain, but he gutted it out and played on it and he’s just now rounding into shape.”
Against Morro Bay, Chai had no problem slashing through the lane and fending off a Pirates defender for a layup in the third quarter or getting lift on a corner three that gave Morro Bay a 27-8 lead in the second quarter.
“The injury kind of hindered me a little bit in the beginning, but I’m a lot better now,” Chai said.
Now that his health is better, Chai said he needs to work on improving his paint presence.
“I think my shot is all right right now, it can obviously get a lot better, but driving to the rim is something I can get a lot better at,” Chai said.
Last season, Chai was the team’s fifth leading scorer, averaging 5.4 points per game. But this season, Chai figures to be a more integral part of the offense, along with a handful of capable Tigers guards. On Monday, Chai hit three three-point shots, and against Morro Bay he had two more.
“He can score the ball,” Brandow said. “That’s what he does.”
Against Morro Bay, generating offense wasn’t a problem. All 10 dressed players scored at least two points. Sophomore Will Compton had 11, and Nick Attala and Augusto Supertino had 8 points each. The balanced scoring was a result of high-energy defense that started on the first possession and didn’t let up until the game was well in hand. San Luis Obispo used full-court, trapping pressure to force Morro Bay into turnover after turnover.
“Our identity as a team is to defend, that’s our number one thing,” Brandow said. “We are man-to-man, we’re up in your face, we’re aggressive. That’s who we are as a basketball team. That’s what I preach, that’s what I believe in, and that’s what they bought in to.”
The Tigers are just two wins away from tying the number of wins they had all last season (9-19 record in 2014-15), but Brandow says they will have their hands full against Santa Barbara and San Marcos in the Central Coast Classic.
“Both of those schools have beaten teams in our league by 40,” Brandow said.
For Santa Barbara (7-1), Northeastern commit Bolden Brace leads the way and helped beat Arroyo Grande 71-44 on Tuesday night. Chai could guard 6-foot-6 forward Scott Everman, who will play next season at UC San Diego, when the Tigers take on San Marcos (5-0) next Tuesday.
“Those are going to be challenges, but that’s what we want,” Brandow said. “We want to be challenged.”