The Rancho Cotate Cougars boys’ basketball team triumphed over the Maria Carrillo Pumas, 76-61, for the second time of the season last Thursday at a home game.
The victory over the Pumas left the Cougars first in their league and undefeated with four wins so far in conference play. According their coach, Michael Washington, the Cougars are just getting started.
“It’s really just the kids buying in and being excited about playing sports at Rancho. It’s a cool thing,” Washington said. “We’ve got the right group. With all the new players who love the game of basketball I think slowly but surely Rancho Cotate basketball is going to change in the right direction.”
Cougars started the match strong and set the pace of play when they won the tipoff and launched an assault on the Pumas’ basket. Cougar player, Sumari Jones, hovered on the edge of the three-point line while his team jostled in the paint for position. Jones passed to his teammate, Jayvion Scott, but Scott couldn’t force his way in either and he passed back to Jones.
The ball flew from Scott’s fingers so fast that it confused the Puma defenders for a moment. That moment was all Jones needed. He lined up a perfect shot and secured his team an early lead.
But the Pumas had a three-point ace of their own: Brandon Macharia. Macharia proved as slippery as he was skilled. Time and time again, he moved out from under his assigned defender and edged his way into perfect scoring position, keeping his team within a hair’s breadth of the Cougars’ lead.
In the first quarter alone Macharia sunk five three-point shots. It was clear to everyone involved that Macharia was a threat that needed to be contained, which is exactly what Washington did.
“We had Nate Fredlund basically face guarding [Macharia] the entire game. It limited [Fredlund’s] shots but it also limited [Macharia’s] as well,” Washington said. “We made sure that every shot they made at the perimeter was contested.”
With Macharia now contained, the Cougars could build on their lead. Derek O’Gorman stepped up to help.
After a long series of back and forth passes between the Cougars, Gorman got the ball and found a hole in the Pumas’ defensive posture. He rushed the basket for a lay-up with two seconds left on the shot clock. His lay-up missed. Gormon got the rebound, though, as the Puma defenders swarmed around him.
Another shot, but this one missed too. A third bounced off the rim.
It was only on the fourth with five pairs of Puma arms clawing for the ball that Gorman managed to, finally, sink the basket.
By far though the play of the game belongs to Cougar player, Connor Barbato.
The Cougars stopped a Puma offensive at their basket after Gormon got the rebound. The last few seconds of the first half ticked away. The audience began to count. Gormon hurled the ball over arm across the court to Barbato who seized possession and rushed the basket—but there wasn’t enough time.
From half court Barbato launched a fade-away shot. The buzzer sounded. And the ball sailed through the air and into the waiting net to the roar of the crowd.
This was awesome,” Barbato said. “Our football program is normally pretty good, but our basketball team hasn’t gotten any big wins or had a good season in a pretty long time. It’s really good for the program to bring in some wins.”
The next game for the Cougars will be at home against Ukiah Fri., Jan. 18th.