Bearcats win 1 at Atascadero Christmas Tournament


Paso Robles forced to play with 8 players

ATASCADERO — The Atascadero Greyhounds hosted their 54th annual Christmas boys basketball tournament at the end of last week and into the weekend. Atascadero invited seven teams to join them in their tournament with the only other local team being the Paso Robles Bearcats. Albany, Clovis-Buchanan, Ocean View, Hanford, Bakersfield-North and Montclair all joined the Bearcats and the host team, with the Albany Cougars emerging as the undefeated tournament champions.

Paso Robles has been one of the staples of the tournament for many of the 54 years and re-entered the tournament after not being in attendance last year. The Templeton Eagles have also attended the tournament in years past but decided to head on the road to the Damien High School tournament down in Los Angeles.

The Bearcats did not fare as well as they might have hoped, only winning one out of their four games, but played well based on the team they were able to field while having to deal with injuries, and the seasonal flu’s. Paso Robles played most of the tournament with only eight players but had one game with only seven.

Well you never know when it is going to be your time to step up,” head coach Derrick Jasper said before the Bearcats final game on Saturday. “And we had a few guys that were getting limited playing time now having to step in and play due to some injuries and sickness. But we practice for every situation so it is nice to see some guys stepping up and playing hard but every single game prepares us for our league, which is so tough, and a lot of these Fresno teams play a unique style of play that will prepare us for those league games.”

Paso Robles was in each of their four games, their biggest defeat coming in their final game by 15 points to Buchanan, and fatigue played a big factor. Turnovers and free throw shooting, especially in the second half of games, was the biggest obstacle for the ’Cats. When Paso was able to keep their turnovers down and get to the line, while shooting a good percentage, they were right there, but when physical fatigue started leading to mental fatigue that is when they would get into trouble.

In the Bearcats loss, 56-44, to Ocean View in their second game of the tournament, and second of the day, they recorded 17 turnovers while only shooting 2-for-7 from the charity stripe. In their overtime win against Montclair, the Bearcats got to the line 24 times and made 18 of them to secure the 64-60 victory.

“It was a tough one [Montclair game], we didn't really take care of the ball real well but we actually were able to get to the free throw line and we have a team that doesn’t get there very often,” Jasper said. “We found a way to get there 24 times and covert on 18 of those so I think that was our biggest difference in the game.”

Opposing teams also quickly diagnosed that on top of having only two to three subs the Bearcats were young, playing six sophomores, and also began to press full court. The press didn’t bother the Bearcats as much as it did other teams like the Greyhounds but at times it would lead to full-length, cross-court passes that wound up being intercepted or bounced out of bounds.

“I would expect everyone to press us very hard,” Jasper said of the strategy. “You know we have a lot of young guys, six of our eight guys today are sophomores, so they are still trying to learn how to take care of the ball and play strong. So I would expect everyone to press us, I would.”

The beauty of the Christmas Tournament is that, although it would be great to win, its primary function is for teams to get one final tune-up before they head into their league schedule.                                                                                                                                             

The Bearcats’ leading scorer for the tournament was Braden Waterman who scored 51 total points and was in double figures in three of the four games. As they have been working on for the past few weeks, Paso has also established an inside game going to sophomore forward Darius Thompson who put up 17 points and 12 rebounds in their lone win and sophomore guard Peyton Ramos made the most of his extended minutes finishing just one point shy of posting back-to-back double-doubles with 10 points and 10 rebounds against Montclair and nine points and 15 rebounds against Ocean View.

Thompson has the ability to take over games at times with his old school moves on the block and when the Bearcats get him going it really helps them space the floor and begin to hit three-point shots.

Mountain League play will be tough for the Bearcats, Arroyo Grande and St. Joseph are both ranked in the top seven in Division 1 of the Central Section, but they will also get back some of their big men and their senior captain in Marshall Weisner.  The Bearcats will open league play with four straight road contests before their first home game on Jan. 12 when they host San Luis Obispo.

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