With the Boys' Basketball playoff hopes in jeopardy, every game counts for the Troopers. On Jan. 12, the team bested the Montwood Rams 64-58, led by junior Joseph Barnes with 13 points, 2 rebounds, and 1 block. On Jan. 16, the Troopers topped the El Dorado Aztecs 64-58, bringing the overall season record to 9-11 and their district record to 2-3, currently fourth place. The Americas Trail Blazers lead the district with a record of 6-0.
The Montwood game opened up in favor of the Rams as they came out on top winning the tip and scoring the first points of the game. This game was a change of pace for the Troopers as they played a much more methodical and precise game than at the start of the season. After dropping the district opener to the Coronado in a double-overtime nail-biter 68-67, and then losing the next game to Americas 57-49. The following week against the Pebble Hills Spartans, the Troopers faced another heartbreaker, losing 66-64 in overtime.
Head Coach Gary Pippen is ready to take on the rest of the season after the tough losses. He believes his team has been working really hard and is ready to see whats next.
“Considering we started out 0-3," Pippen said, "we lost one game in double OT by one point one game in OT by two points. I had four kids in double figures. I got a good effort from all my kids tonight. They've all been working really hard. We've played a lot of good teams and we have lost some close games, but at least we are hanging around. It feels good to get a win."
In addition, to this adversity the Troopers lost a scoring weapon senior shooting guard Brian Rios to injury. He missed eight games this year, but has come back and appears to be healthy. In his performance against Montwood, he scored 12 points, earned four rebounds, a pair of assists, and one steal. Pippen expects Rios to be even more of a factor as the season progresses.
"Brian Rios-- this is his second game back from injury," Pippen said, "It's just part of the game. He's still rusty but he's coming around."
Pippen was right about Rios. He exploded against El Dorado, with 31 points, 3 rebounds, and a pair of assists.
The Montwood game took an interesting turn when senior Diego Hernandez took a hard charge on his birthday of all days, from Montwood senior guard Tyreese Andrus. The charge
was deflating for the Rams who instantly lost the momentum they had been building going into the half. Hernandez finished the game with 7 points, 6 rebounds, and 1 assist.
This game was a game dominated by big men down low. Sophomore Mitchell Martinez earned a "Player of the Game" recognition and was everywhere defensively he scored 8 points, led the team in rebounds with 12 rebounds, as well as a pair of steals and blocks. Montwood struggled to get back into the game after this.
“I feel good", Martinez said, I tried to do everything I could and felt that I did. I helped out the team a lot this game."
Pippen believes that Martinez has a high ceiling and can only improve from this point forward due to his tenacity.
"Mitchell is one of two sophomores, and he played a tremendous game on the boards," Pippen said, "He is going to do nothing but keep getting better because he works really hard.”
Martinez was fighting for rebounds and being a scrapper in every sense of the word--diving for loose balls, fighting for rebounds and playing solid defense, which clearly rattled the Rams. Despite his lanky 6’4” 160 lbs., he held his ground against the Rams. And against El Dorado, Martinez would finish with 8 points, 6 rebounds, and 2 assists.
“I'm not going to let them show me up", Martinez said, "I'm going to go out there and do the best that I can and get big on them.”
Hopefully, the team can continue their progression and climb higher in the rankings by the time playoffs come around. This Friday, Jan 19, the Troopers will take on the seventh-ranked Franklin Cougars at home and hope to continue their fight for the playoffs fourth seed.
Photos are provided curtsey of Junior Ethan Voight