With the way Atascadero High started last season — losing five straight games — boys basketball coach Matt Knudson said his team showed great resolve in bouncing back to earn a share of the PAC 7 championship.
“I thought it was great,” the second-year coach said. “We started out super slow, but we turned it around.”
The Greyhounds enter this season with much of the same roster from that 19-9 campaign, including 2013 County Player of the Year Robbie Berwick, and are keen on taking the league title outright.
“Right now, we’re where we were three-quarters of the way into last season,” said Knudson, who returns his top three leading scorers in seniors Berwick, Jared Stuedemann and Joe Johnson. “You’re still teaching from scratch and you’ve got to fine-tune a lot of things. But still, when everybody knows their sets, it helps out so much.”
Atascadero went 10-2 in league play, running the table in the second half of the schedule to pull even with Righetti at season’s end. The Greyhounds topped the Warriors 66-63 at home — where Atascadero went 10-0 — before dispatching Pioneer Valley in the regular season finale for their eighth straight win.
Berwick, who signed with Florida State in November, finished the year averaging 17.5 points per game and 6.2 assists as the Greyhounds made it to the CIF-Southern Section Division 3AA quarterfinals before falling to No. 1 seed Leuzinger.
“He’s a great ball-handler,” Knudson said of his 6-foot-4 senior captain. “He’s great at getting to the rack. He has a good shot, and he works on his individual game year-round. He works really hard at it.”
Atascadero is off to a 5-1 start with nonleague wins over PAC 7 foes San Luis Obispo and Paso Robles. Its lone defeat came from Mission Prep, which jumped out to a 14-point lead at halftime before hanging on to top the Greyhounds 74-65 at the Arroyo Grande Optimist Tournament.
The Royals (4-2) eventually fell in the tournament final to Thousand Oaks, 74-69, but are finding their identity following the graduation of two All-County players in Andy Rowley and Connor Woolpert.
“It’s a different team every year,” Mission Prep coach Terrance Harris said. “This year’s team won’t look the same as last year’s. Every year we adapt to our strengths.”
One proven commodity on the Mission Prep roster is junior Quinton Adlesh. The 6-foot point guard garnered first team All-County honors as a sophomore and has scored 20 or more points in five games this year, including 31 in a win over San Luis Obispo.
“I think the growth that Quinton made from a freshman to sophomore was tremendous,” Harris said. “He matured as a player and he’s continuing to mature as a leader. He’s a kid that really puts his heart and soul into his game and in the classroom.”
Ian Stake, a 6-foot-6 center, and 6-foot-2 guard Ben Covington are senior starters, and classmate Patrick Laird figures to return to the rotation once he recovers from a football season ankle injury.
Mission Prep and Atascadero will take part in the Mission Prep Christmas Classic this week against teams from California, Colorado and Florida. The Greyhounds play at 5:30 p.m. today against Pasadena’s Maranatha. The Royals kick off tournament action in the following game against Cypress Bay from Weston, Fla.
“We’re going to learn a lot about who we are,” Harris said. “We’re going to know a lot about what our journey needs to look like.”
In the wake of a 6-19 season, Paso Robles already has surpassed last year’s win total by notching seven wins in nine games.
“There’s nothing magical to the mix,” coach Matthew Drake said. “We’re just doing the fundamental things that you have to do to win games. But we still got a large part of the season to go.”
The Bearcats reeled off six straight wins to start the year before falling to eventual first- and third-place finishers Thousand Oaks and Atascadero at the Arroyo Grande Optimist Tournament.
Paso Robles rebounded from the loss to Thousand Oaks by dispatching the host Eagles, 66-51. Jaylon Davis scored 22 points in the win and has been joined by fellow co-captain Josh Oliver and Anthony Spencer as the team’s top scorers so far.
“Josh is a very aggressive, strong player,” Drake said of Oliver, a 6-foot-5 forward. “He’s been working really hard to do a good job down low for us.”
Davis averaged 10.0 points per game as a junior for a team that graduated just one player from last year’s roster.
Arroyo Grande went 22-10 with a trip to the Division 2 state tournament last year on the strength of seniors Matt Willkomm, Brennan Rivera and DeSean Scott.
All-County honorable mention Andrew Midyett is back for the Eagles (6-2), and is surrounded by a pair of sharpshooters in Cobe Williams and Carson Wack. Williams made six 3-pointers in a recent win over Templeton, and Wack hit eight in another win over the Eagles.
San Luis Obispo graduated its top four scorers from last year, including All-County second teamer David Thoresen, who averaged 17.8 points per game.
The Tigers (2-6) have earned wins over Morro Bay and North Bakersfield, with senior Jonathan Edwards scoring 12.3 points per game at a 41 percent shooting clip.
In the Los Padres League, seniors Matt Jardini and Will Mehring are expected to pace a Templeton (2-6) squad that topped San Luis Obispo, 50-41, last week.
Nipomo (2-4) earned back-to-back wins over Greenfield and North Bakersfield before falling at Pioneer Valley.
Morro Bay (0-10) is looking to improve upon last year’s 4-8 LPL record, but graduated leading scorer and All-County honorable mention Luke Munds.