The Brian Carson era at Morton Family Gymnasium opened at light speed.
With Carson taking the helm for the Serra basketball team this season, the Padres got their new head coach in the win column quickly, and aggressively, running and gunning to a 67-49 win over Sequoia in Tuesday’s 2019-20 season opener.
“Love it, love it,” said Carson, who previously stated coach Chuck Rapp is expected to return to the head coaching role next season. “The intensity … just flying around attacking the ball. That was our game plan going in was to attack them, pressure them … and then sprint back if they ever broke it. And then we want the fast break, fast break.”
After the Serra football team had six takeaways Saturday night in their CCS Division I championship victory, the Padres hoopsters matched that total with six steals in the opening eight minutes against Sequoia.
Senior guard Antonio Abeyta helped ignite a 13-2 first-quarter run en route to scoring a game-high 21 points. His tenacity for the takeaways set the tone, though, as he totaled six steals in the contest, four of them coming in the opening period.
“We always want bring the pressure at the start of the game,” Abeyta said. “That’s what we did. We pressed too. We don’t usually do that … and I got a lot of steals from that.”
The Padres (1-0) took an early 5-4 lead on a free throw by Dimitri Koutsogeorgas and led the rest of the way. Abeyta quickly gave Serra some breathing room, nabbing a steal off the ensuing inbound pass and pounding it straight to the hoop. Sequoia succeeded with the following inbound, but Abeyta read a pass across midcourt and nabbed it for another steal, then kicked an assist pass to senior Ryan Wilson for a quick-strike 3.
“Personally, I like to run,” Abeyta said. “We get a lot of open 3s more from the break. I think this team is more suited to go with that.”
Serra went on to lead by double-digits by the end of the opening quarter 22-12. Sequoia (0-2), coming off a 61-34 loss to a tough Oakland Tech team in last Friday’s opener, committed 24 turnovers in the game, including nine in the first period.
“Just trying to get better,” Sequoia head coach Fine Lauese said. “Our guards, we’re struggling taking care of the ball. So, opening against Oakland Tech, we’ve got Serra and then we go to Bellarmine, we’ve just got to keep working.”
Sequoia point guard Sam Schult recorded team-highs with 18 points and seven rebounds, with a majority of those numbers coming in the second half. A third-year varsity player, this is Schult’s first year running the point.
“Sam’s pretty good,” Lauese said. “But it’s tough when he’s got the ball in his hands, and he’s running our offense, playing defense. But he’s a great kid, he gives us everything we ask.”
Serra dominated on the boards, outrebounding Sequoia 33-22.
Senior forward Julius Alcantara plays sneaky big for a rail-thin 6-5 post, but powered to a double-double with 18 points and 12 rebounds.
“Julius is a pogo stick,” Carson said. “He bounces off the floor. … He gets quick off the floor, he’s got energy, he’s a senior so he gives us a lot of experience. So, he’s going to be great.”
Senior center Muti Shuman, at a behemoth 6-9, added six rebounds, giving the Padres a versatile one-two combo inside. The Padres also expect to add 6-6 senior Nusi Malani, who is currently finishing his season with the Serra football team.
The flaw in Serra’s aggression showed up in the foul totals. The Padres put Sequoia in the double bonus midway through the second quarter. The Ravens, however, were 12 of 18 from the free-throw line, including an abysmal 2 of 7 in the second quarter.
“It’s almost like the same exact game we played against Oakland Tech,” Lauese said. “We got a lot of free throws, missed free throws. But it’s early in the season. That’s the good thing, right? It’s December, not late February.”
The Padres turned to the razzle-dazzle late in the game, with junior Chris Garcia feeding Alcantara on an electrifying alley-oop midway through the fourth quarter. Serra, though, refused to slow the tempo, even leading by as much as 22 with 2:20 remaining in the third period, and by 20 for much of the fourth.
Still, the Padres racked up 16 team assists on the night.
“We’ve got to learn when to take a good shot, when to take a bad shot,” Carson said. “… We want rhythm shots. If we’re going to shoot a 3, it’s got to be a rhythm 3. And we want ball reversals. … In any offense we run, ball reversals are huge.”