Luke Zuffelato, Santa Barbara High basketball player.
Luke Zuffelato, shown in an earlier game, scored 29 points for Santa Barbara in an overtime loss at Buena. Credit: Gary Kim / Noozhawk file photo

The Santa Barbara High boys basketball team struggled to keep pace against powerhouse program St. John Bosco Friday night at J.R. Richards Gymnasium, falling to the Braves 95-51.

With the loss, Santa Barbara falls to 3-3 overall while St. John Bosco, a member of the powerful Trinity League remains unbeaten, improving to 4-0 on the young season.

Despite the loss, the efforts of the Dons’ backcourt, led by sophomore Luke Zuffelato, has the team in high spirits as they now turn their attention to Channel League play.

“He works hard, he has done a great job and he’s earned his role,” Santa Barbara coach Corey Adam told Noozhawk after the game.

Zuffelato entered Friday’s contest having scored 20-plus points in each of the first five contests of the season.
That streak was extended against the Braves’ length and athleticism as the sophomore poured in 23 points, including five makes from beyond the 3-point line.

He was most dangerous in the first half, scoring 20 of his 23 in the first 16 minutes. 

He was held to 3 points in the third and did not play the fourth when the game was out of reach.

“He’s going to be our leading scorer and he’s going to face more of what he saw in that second half,” said Adam. “They guarded him a little closer and he’s gonna have to get used to that.

“Teams are going to do that. They’re gonna put their best defender on him, they’re going to shadow him, so he’s got to get used to that. And, we as coaches have to put him in the best spots to help him get through that.”

While the sophomore had his fun, the junior guards also showed up and played well. Waylon Finkle scored nine points for the Dons and Tobin Shyrock and Julian Espinoza each added six points.

“I am so excited for our unit as a whole because they have such good chemistry. I’ve said it before, they genuinely care for each other and are good friends off the court,” Adam said.

“They compete against each other and they have their moments, where like any family, they have their arguments but they are always good to go the next day.”

Shyrock, one of the team’s captains, scored both his 3-pointers from deep and led the team with three assists including a sweet look to Zuffelato that led to an and-1 score.

Adam said Shyrock and Zuffelato will be key to the team’s success.

“They are team leaders and as they go, we are going to go. If they’re playing well, we’re going to be tough, and they usually play well,” said the coach.

Despite the one-sided loss, Adam thought his team played hard for all four quarters.

St. John Bosco got off to a great start, scoring the first 11 points of the contest.

Zuffelato then knocked down his first 3-ball of the game to get his team and the board and the crowd on their feet.

The Dons trailed 25-11 by the end of the first quarter, with Zuffelato scoring 8 of the teams points.

In the second quarter, St. John Bosco again started quickly, scoring the first eight points of the quarter to lead 33-11.

The Dons could not get the lead below 20 at any point after that, but Zuffelato kept the offense churning, dropping another 12 points. Santa Barbara trailed 55-30 at half.

St. John Bosco senior guard Jack Turner, who came into the game averaging 22 points per game, dropped a game-high 24 points Friday while Elzie Harrington was right behind him with 23 points.

Now, the Dons turn their attention to Channel League play, hosting Buena at 7 p.m. Monday.

“I told the guys, the bright side is when you lose like tonight, you move on to the next one. And we play again Monday,” Adam said.

“We don’t play anyone like that again, so the game’s going be a little slower now for us when we play other teams, and we just have to do our job.”