HomeSportsTitan Cagers Get Fast Break With 2-0 Start

Titan Cagers Get Fast Break With 2-0 Start

SWING MAN: Senior Michael Baldocchi has skill both inside and outside for the Titans, who are off to a somewhat surprising 2-0 start in Rio Hondo League action. Lachlan Streeter Photo

All signs pointed to a dreaded “rebuilding season” as San Marino High School’s boys’ varsity basketball team headed into the 2018-19 campaign. But what is being constructed inside Dingus Memorial Fieldhouse might forever remove the negative connotations to that label.

Because the Titans are 2-0 with out-of-the-gate victories over South Pasadena and Monrovia, both taking place in the friendly confines.

“I am just happy for all of our boys,” said head Coach Mihail Papadopulos following Tuesday night’s 62-55 win over the Wildcats. “Happy for their buy-in and happy that they were able to thrive in this environment.”

Sophomore Ethan Deng paced all scorers with 19 points and classmate Lemuel Li added nine. But the real story was balance as four Titans tallied seven points each, including Cristian Mata, Michael Baldocchi, Eric Fu and Ethan Mo. The rebounding totals tell an even more compelling story as Li (7), Mata (9), Baldocchi (7) and Fu (6) all pounded the boards as did senior forward Chris Wicke, who pulled down five rebounds and did a lot of the unheralded dirty work under the basket.

Conversely, San Marino displayed a rather uncharacteristic ability to play at a fast pace as both teams elected to run the floor.

A 23-point second quarter gave San Marino a 38-28 lead they would never relinquish as San Marino improved to 12-7 overall and 2-0 in Rio Hondo League action.

Its first league win came in a rare Saturday contest. Compelled to finish conference action before February 1, league officials chose to open play before any of its member schools had returned from winter break. The result was a 56-40 win over South Pasadena. The good news is, it was a win. The bad news is, there were very few on hand to bear witness.

ENFORCER: Senior forward Chris Wicke contributes with solid defense, dependable rebounding and is also a master at the often lost art of setting a good, solid pick. Lachlan Streeter Photo

In the fullness of time, the “win” will factor much larger than the attendance count. Even more impressive was the Titans’ defensive effort, which held the visiting Tigers to just 12 points in the first half.

“We weren’t going to be swindled by South Pasadena’s record,” said Papadopulos of the Tigers’ 2-12 mark heading into the contest. “We knew they could shoot and at any moment go on a 3-point shooting barrage. But I thought our boys did a tremendous job not allowing that to happen. Any time you hold a team to 12 pts in a half, you’re doing some solid work as a group.”

Deng was again the leading scorer with 16 points, followed by O’Brien (12) and Baldocchi and Mata, who chipped in with six apiece.

Fu added five points and seven rebounds while Mo (3), and Li, Wicke and Neven Husson (two points apiece) rounded out the scoring. Mata again was able to find a way to pull down seven rebounds.

“I am just super proud of our boys,” Papadopulos said after Tuesday’s win over the Wildcats. “Everyone on our team is giving everything that they have and playing their roles well. Every night someone is showing some growth in so many areas. Tonight, sophomore Sean O’Brien had a tremendous floor game as he had to relentlessly navigate us through all the chaos for most of the game. Ethan Deng maintained his confident shooting while our seniors Cristian Mata, Michael Baldocchi, Eric Fu and Chris Wicke, did an incredible overall job on defense, rebounding and adding some nice finishes. Sophomores Lemuel Li and Ethan Mo also came out and gave us some great minutes in the first half.”

The Titans wrap up the three-game homestand on Friday, January 11 when Temple City comes calling for a 5:15 affair and what Coach Pop and his staff call Hoopcoming. The Rams are 12-7 overall and 2-0 in Rio Hondo League action with a 55-47 victory over South Pasadena.

“With our young group, it’s all about learning experiences right now,” Papadopulos concluded. “Our boys are going through an active chapter of learning how to win, and it’s fun seeing them figure it out. The chemistry on our team is really nice this year. It’s not only enjoyable on the court, but it’s really enjoyable to watch them interact in the team room or at practice. That has everything to do with our growth as a team.”

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