SAN LUIS OBISPO — The Cuesta College men’s basketball team won the Western State Conference title with an 8-2 mark and advanced to the playoffs for the seventh time over the past eight seasons. The Cougars, 21-7 overall, earned the No. 17-seed in the 2019 CCCAA Regional Playoffs, but due to a rule about conference foes meeting each other in the first round they dropped to the No. 19-seed and played No. 14-seed Pasadena on the road Wednesday, Feb. 27. The Western State Conference just released the 2019 All-Western State Conference seasonal awards and four members of Cuesta’s starting line-up were honored. Four members of the team were accorded all-WSC status, including WSC Player of the Year Joshua Wilson-Murry (Paso Robles), while Coach Rusty Blair was named WSC Coach of the Year for the eighth time. Freshman guard Alexandre Fanchini (France) and sophomore forward Iker Cruz (Spain) joined Wilson-Murry on the all-WSC 1st Team, while sophomore guard Jorge Bueno (Spain) earned all-WSC Honorable Mention.
Sophomore shooting guard Wilson-Murry earned all-WSC Honorable Mention last season as a freshman, but after leading Cuesta to the Western State Conference title this season he was voted the 2019 WSC Player of the Year and earned an automatic spot on the 2019 CCCAA All-State team. Wilson-Murry is the 11th Cuesta player to earn conference player of the year honors in the program’s 54-year history, but the first player from a local high school to win the award since the Cougars joined the Western State Conference in 1983. A fiery, enthusiastically intense player, Wilson-Murry is one of the Cougars’ captains and a driving force in the program’s success the past two seasons. Wilson-Murry led the Cougars with 16.9 points and is tied for the team lead with 7.6 rebounds per game. On offense, Wilson-Murry was as comfortable driving to the basket as he was testing his seemingly unlimited range. He enjoyed a team-high 90 three-pointers on the year, including 13 in the final week of the season as the Cougars took down fellow playoff teams Allan Hancock and Ventura to clinch the WSC Crown. His career three-point percentage of 38.1 percent ranks fourth all-time at Cuesta. Wilson-Murry’s 828 career point currently place him 15th all-time in program history. On defense, he is second on the team with 65 steals and third on the team with 13 blocked shots. His 103 career steals represent the fifth-highest total by a Cougar on record.
Freshman point guard Fanchini burst onto the scene this season as one of the state’s premier point guards and was a near-unanimous addition to the 2019 All-Western State Conference First Team. Fanchini at his best is impossible to stop because he can lead his team to victory in multiple ways. He ended the regular season a tenth of a point behind Wilson-Murry for the team scoring lead with 16.8 points per game. His ability to score was on full display early in the season, when he became the first Cuesta player to drop 40 points in a game in a decade and the most since points since Eric Edmunds scored 43 in
Sophomore forward Cruz was selected to the 2019 All-Western State Conference First Team after earning all-WSC Honorable Mention in 2018. Cruz is the tallest player in the Cougars starting line-up and the team’s de facto Center. He had the job of playing against bigger and taller players all season on both on offense and defense, so his ability to extend the court and find open teammates made him an invaluable player for the Cougars. Cruz’s team play on offense helped him post a team-high 50.7 shooting percentage, while also finishing second on the team with 3.4 assists per game. Cruz scored 11.2 points per game and tied with Wilson-Murry for the team lead with 7.6 rebounds per game. His 6.2 career rebounding average ranks seventh all-time at Cuesta.
Sophomore guard Bueno was accorded 2019 All-WSC Honorable Mention. Bueno joined Wilson-Murry and Fanchini to lead the Cougars’ three-guard attack. All three players could run the floor, lead the offense, and score in bunches. Bueno worked seamlessly with his high-scoring running mates but made the most of his opportunities. Bueno averaged 8.5 points a game and also paced the Cougars’ guard trio with the highest field goal (44.5 percent) and three-point percentage (42.0 percent). Bueno was also third on the team with 58 assists and 27 steals during the regular season.
Coach Blair was voted by his peers as the 2019 Western State Conference Coach of the Year, but in a show of magnanimity, he offered to share the award with Ventura Coach Joey Ramirez, whose Pirates were the co-Champions. Blair led the Cougars to a 21-7 record during the regular season and an 8-2 mark against the WSC to a share of the title. He also led his team to its fifth conference title of the past seven seasons. This is the 18th playoff berth for the Cougars since Blair took over the program for the 1992-93 season. This season, Blair became the 13th CCCAA Men's Basketball Coach to earn 500 career victories and led his Cougars to their 11th Western State Conference title under his watch.
2018-19 WSC Basketball Awards
Joshua Wilson-Murry – Player of the Year
Alexandre Fanchini- First Team
Iker Cruz- First Team
Jorge Bueno- Honorable Mention
Rusty Blair- Coach of the Year