In the electric atmosphere of a packed home gym, the Santa Barbara High boys basketball team used the quick-hands defense of Carter Battle and terrific ball movement from point guard Tobin Shyrock to open up a 16-6 lead against rival San Marcos.
That impressive first-quarter performance set the tone for the Dons in a 63-50 Channel League win on Friday night at J.R. Richards Gym.
Santa Barbara improves to 8-3 in the Channel League while San Marcos falls to 5-6 and is in a fight for fourth place and a CIF playoff spot.
Santa Barbara fed off the energy of the big crowd at the start. Shyrock hit a fall-away shot in the key, Battle stole the ball and scored and followed with another coast-to-coast lay-in. Shyrock knocked down a three-pointer from a Luke Zuffelato pass in transition for a 13-4 advantage.
The Dons kept the pressure on in the second quarter and led by as many as 21. Zuffelato, who finished with a game-high 22 points, started the quarter with a three-pointer. Julian Espinosa made a steal and drove for a basket and Battle scored on back-to-back plays: a backdoor pass from Shyrock and floater in the lane off another feed from the point guard for a 26-8 lead.
Battle, who finished with 18 points, said the Dons knew San Marcos’ tendencies from watching film. “We saw a lot of their moves and the sets they run, so we kind of knew where they were going with the ball.”
Santa Barbara coach Corey Adam said Battle is “Robin” to Zuffelato’s “Batman.”
“Luke gets a lot more of the publicity, and deservedly so, because he scores,” said Adam. “He’s also a fabulous defender. But, Carter, quote, unquote, Robin, we can’t ask for a better ‘Batman and Robin’ duo, especially as sophomores. It’s pretty special and we’re pretty fortunate to have them.”
The Dons are also fortunate they have a heady point guard in Shyrock, who scored seven of the team’s 16 points in the first quarter.
“He’s definitely the heart,” said Adam. “He’s an extremely intelligent player and you see that with the things you see on the court. He’s also hyper-competitive.”
Carter said the back-door plays “are all Tobin. We have great, great chemistry with that. We always know when he’s gonna throw that back door and we just commit to it. And it works a lot.”
Santa Barbara held San Marcos in single digits until the 3:34 mark of the second quarter. When the Royals finally hit double figures on a Ben Treadway free throw, they trailed 29-10.
A drive by Owen Debusk made it 31-10, and it was 35-16 at halftime.
“The guys executed the game plan in the first half,” said a pleased Adam, whose team is in third place in the league standings. “We did some things we hadn’t done yet this year and it worked. It frustrated (San Marcos) and took them out of sync offensively. To their credit, they bounced back and came out strong in the second half.”
San Marcos coach James Kinzler said the excitement and the high energy of the crosstown game might have been a distraction in the first half.
“It’s a big game, emotions are high and I think everyone just wanted to do so well from the start that we just got a little bit away from who we are and what we’re trying to do,” he said. “Our execution wasn’t sharp. It’s hard to try to find that balance of letting them play with great emotion and trying to help them control it.”
San Marcos regrouped in the second half and made things interesting.
Guard Wyatt Miller got the Royals off to a good start in the third quarter, scoring on a back-door pass from Micah Jacobi and on a drive.
They continued to chip away at the Dons’ lead, cutting it to 10 (44-34) by the end of the quarter on 7-2 run. Jacobi scored six points in the run.
“At halftime, we just said, ‘Hey, forget everything else. Let’s just leave that one (half) behind and come out and execute. Let’s come out and do what we’ve done all season in practice and move in the right direction,’” Kinzler said of his halftime talk. “I was really proud of them. I thought they responded well. They finally settled in, had a few shots fall and never let up on the defensive effort.”
The Royals pushed the ball and got to the free-throw line early in the fourth quarter. Owen Lauderdale hit a pair of free throws, Joe Pasternack knocked down four and Andre McCullough scored on a drive to bring San Marcos within seven, 49-42, with 5:03 left.
Zuffelato got Santa Barbara going again with drives to the hoop to draw fouls. He made three free throws around an inside bucket by Jack Holdren to put the Dons ahead 54-42.
San Marcos missed a shot inside and turned the ball over before Zuffelato buried a step-back three for a 57-45 lead with 2:21 left. He made three of Santa Barbara’s five three-pointers.
San Marcos made only one three-pointer in the game.
“Santa Barbara does a pretty nice job chasing guys off the line,” said Kinzler.
Freshman forward Koji Hefner, a call-up from the JV team, played well off the bench for San Marcos and led the team in scoring with nine points. Owen Lauderdale and Jacobi each had eight points and Miller and McCullough finished with seven apiece.