Bryan Smith exemplifies the evolution of the modern game of basketball — acting as the lynchpin that allows the movement and good spacing that all of the best offenses employ.
At 6-foot-5, the senior forward is a big man who can work on the perimeter to stretch the floor and provide driving lanes for other players. He’s a breed of player whose numbers are increasing from the top levels of the game on down.
And in the Eagles’ 88-37 first-round victory in the CIF-Central Section Division I playoffs Wednesday night, Smith was instrumental in this role.
He had 26 points, with 16 in the first, half as Arroyo Grande staked a 54-22 lead at the break. Smith also hit three 3-pointers.
“I think very few people realize just how much Bryan Smith does for us when he’s on the court,” head coach Ryan Glansville said. “Last year, he wasn’t necessarily a three-point shooter. He’s developed that in the offseason.”
Glansville said Smith can shoot outside, as well as being effective around the basket and is a great defender — in addition to being “totally unselfish.”
“He does so many good things for us,” Glansville said.
As a team, the Eagles shot 13 of 17 from behind the arc and hit 6 of 8 threes in the first quarter alone.
Arroyo Grande had just one foul in the first half and forced 18 turnovers, which they converted into fast-break opportunities.
Arroyo Grande (23-5) picked up where it left off in the regular season after winning its first division title since 2011, topping talented St. Joseph by a game in the newly created Mountain League. Mission Prep and San Luis Obispo, where third and fourth in the division, respectively, with the Royals beating the Knights with just a game remaining in the season to all but hand Arroyo Grande the title.
The Eagles’ two league losses came by a combined six points.
Glansville said tough league play and close games benefited the team.
”This is my 15th year coaching the boys (team),” Glansville said. “I always feel like when we get to playoffs, all of our teams in our league do well because our league is so competitive. We kind of beat each other up around the league.”
Robert Hutchens had 18 points, and Connor Angle added 14.
The third-seeded Eagles will play the Southwest Yosemite League champion Bakersfield (19-6) on Friday at home. Opening tip is set for 6 p.m.
Other CIF-CS playoff games involving SLO County teams
Edison (Fresno) 60, Mission Prep 52
Clovis North 102, Atascadero 58
Independence (Bakersfield) 70, Nipomo 60
North (Bakersfield) 70, Morro Bay 55
Garces Memorial (Bakersfield) 66, Templeton 29