Special COVID spring season teams play on back-to-back, Thursdays and Fridays
ATASCADERO — The Atascadero High School (AHS) Greyhound boys’ basketball team now controls their own destiny in the Ocean League after a big win over Paso Robles on Tuesday night 62-53. The Greyhounds, who are now 7-3 and 6-1 in league, started a bit rocky this season but have now put it together and are the favorites to win the league title.
The Greyhounds’ season got off to a slow start as COVID protocol, following a positive test, sidelined most of the varsity roster to start the season in Santa Maria. Despite playing most of their junior varsity team, the Hounds were able to split their first two league games on the schedule. Two weeks later, Atascadero played a pair of games against Pioneer Valley and won them both. The boys won the first game 60-53 at home and thought they lost the second game, but it was discovered that there was a scoring error, and the game ended up a one-point victory for the Hounds.
Following their opening two league series, the Hounds spent the two weeks sharpening their skills against some of the top Mountain League teams and proved they can not only hold their own but also pick up a win.
“We went and played at Mission on a Tuesday, and it came down to it — they beat us on a buzzer-beater three. We played well, we had the lead most of the game, and we basically gave it away in the last two minutes,” AHS head coach Augie Johnston said of his team. “That AG game was a big game for us too. That was the best basketball we have played in the season, and I think we are a good team this year because we have shown it.”
Thursday, May 6, Atascadero made a trip down to Arroyo Grande and gave the Eagles their second loss of the season and first at home, winning by 11 points 62-51.
This special COVID spring season has affected the format of how many sports are being played, basketball included. This year, teams will play on back-to-back nights, Thursdays and Fridays, and will have the entire week to prepare.
Friday night, May 7, following a big emotional win on Thursday, the Hounds didn’t have their legs and energy and fell 20 points behind AG in the third quarter.
“In the second game, we just didn’t have the energy,” Johnston said. “The back-to-backs are pretty tough, and I think we expended all our energy, and we just didn’t come to play.”
After a few measuring stick games against Mountain League opponents, the Hounds swept the Templeton Eagles, winning 72-44 and 67-46 last week.
Atascadero’s improvement this season is undoubtedly due to many factors; the team is full of upperclassmen. They have a deep bench, but perhaps the biggest reason is that this season is Johnston’s third-year AHS head coach. While he has only been the head coach for three seasons, he has coached this team for four years because he began as the freshman head coach.
Now, with every kid on the team having run his system for the entirety of their high school career and the seniors beginning their fourth season with the same coach, the confidence has begun to grow.
“Three years at the varsity level and then a lot of the seniors I coached when they were freshmen because I coached the freshman team,” Johnston noted. “That has helped a lot. We have tons of leadership on this team; there is no shortage of that. I think the defense this year is much better. We are trying to play some pressure D, get up into some guys, turn them over, and pick up full court. We are not the tallest team, that’s for sure, so we play a little bit of small ball.”
Tuesday night, Atascadero traveled to Paso Robles to play the Bearcats, who entered the evening as the favorites to win the Ocean League by many after starting the season 6-0. The Hounds grabbed an early lead, up 16-13 after the first quarter, and held off Paso Robles’ potent offense late.
Atascadero now has five games remaining in the regular season, including a rematch with Paso Robles at home on Tuesday. First, Atascadero will need to get through Morro Bay, who they play on Thursday and Friday night.