It probably isn’t a stretch to say most players on the Vaqueros basketball team aren’t too familiar with Sammy Hagar’s 1984 hit “I Can’t Drive 55.” If the team is looking for a motto to adapt from that song, however, here’s a suggestion:
“You Can’t Score 65.”
As in, opposing teams can’t score 65 points on them. It hasn’t happened yet this season, and the trend continued Monday night in the Verdugo Gym, as the Vaqs defeated San Diego Mesa College 66-51 in a non-conference game, to improve 3-1.
“It’s great,” said head Coach Brian Beauchemin of the team’s defensive effort. “Last year, we scored a lot, but we gave up a lot. This year we seem to have reversed that.”
Beauchemin said he has put more of an emphasis on defense and rebounding in practice. Against San Diego, “We got in the passing lanes pretty well, and just defended the ball. Ball pressure was pretty good.”
It didn’t start out that way. Olympians center Broxton Dawson, who stands at 6-feet-6 and weighs 225 pounds, muscled his way for some easy baskets in the paint against the smaller Glendale lineup.
Vaqs forward Lucian Franklin gave up over 40 pounds to Dawson while guarding him, so it was up to Glendale to swarm inside and throw double teams at San Diego.
The strategy worked, as the Vaqs were able to convert points off turnovers and jump out to an early 17-7 lead. It was clear that Glendale’s game plan was to push the ball whenever possible, which was reasonable, given its lack of size.
Led by sophomore forward Deonte Wyatt and point guard Jose Garcia, the Vaqs were able to exploit holes in the Olympians’ zone defense, creating open shots for almost anyone, including Wyatt, who had nine points in the first half. Glendale led 34-25 at the break.
Wyatt was a 2008 All-Conference honorable mention, and spearheads an offense that is now without its two stars of last season, Josh Guillory and Markus Monroe.
The lanky left-hander, who came into the game averaging 16 points and almost seven rebounds, can do almost anything with the ball, but feels his role isn’t more important than any others’ on the team.
“It’s not just me,” he said. “It’s a lot of guys who can step in . it’s a free-flowing game. Everyone has a look. We have options for everyone on the floor.”
San Diego (1-4) tried to go back to Dawson in the second half, who again scored on a couple of quick baskets. But the Vaqueros had help in the form of freshman Antonio Garrett, a 6-foot-5 forward who battled Dawson and the Olympians’ other big man, Nick Barnhart, all night.
Despite finishing the game with four fouls, Beauchemin thought Garrett did well in protecting the interior. “When [the Olympians] were making their run, we put him in and that stopped,” he said.
Dawson finished the game with 19 points, but nine of them came at the foul line, after he had taken a beating.
What Franklin gave up to Dawson in size, Garrett was at least comparable. “Oh yeah,” he said smiling. “I’m 205 [pounds].”
“He understands that contact is going to be involved down there, so he’s not shy of contact,” Beauchemin said of Garrett.
“With hard work comes success,” Garrett said.
San Diego couldn’t draw closer than eight points in the beginning of the second half and midway through, Glendale had pushed its lead to 53-36. When the Olympians tried to pressure defensively, Glendale was able to take advantage of San Diego’s slow rotation for baskets down low, as Franklin (six points) and freshman forward Narbeh Ebrahlimian (eight points) were able to get easy layups and tip-ins. Demetrius Perkins led the Vaqs with 16 points.
Wyatt wasn’t a huge factor in the second half (he finished with 12 points), but he did get fouled shooting a 3-pointer with just over six minutes left. He went to line, smiled, and clapped his hands. Three made free throws later, the lead was 20, and the game was all but over.
“[Wyatt] needs to perform and produce as a leading man, so his role would be to take the reigns and orchestrate some offensive things,” Beauchemin. “But he’s doing it.”
“The ball comes to me a little more,” Wyatt said. “That’s always good. But it’s just capitalizing on your opportunities.”
Wyatt was satisfied after this game, something he was not in Glendale’s 61-58 loss to Pierce on Nov. 13. He said the team was standing around too much in that game. The Vaqs’ defensive effort on Monday, he said, was all about “desire,” and that the team did a better job on help defense and closing out.
Beauchemin said he would like to better evaluate his team after 10 games, instead of a small four-game sample. Still, this “65 and under” thing could stick for a while.
“I’m pretty happy with our defense at this point,” he said. “Offensively, we just have to execute better and in 10 games, things will be more apparent to us.”
Glendale next plays in the Antelope Valley Tournament Dec. 4 through Dec. 6.