An “overachieving” Archbishop Hanna boys basketball team will face off against one of its toughest competitors Wednesday night at Stockton in the CIF NorCal Division 6 playoffs.
The Hawks advanced to the state regional semifinals last season, the first time in the school’s history, but that’s when they were led by Armani Perry, the small schools All-Empire Player of the Year.
Without his all-around skills this year, coach Courtney Jackson figured this team wouldn’t be so dominant.
“I thought we’d be competitive, but nowhere near where we are,” he said of his 26-5 squad, which went undefeated (10-0) in the Small Schools Bridge League this season. “To be back in the NorCals is great. And the more I watch them, the more I realize that we are a better team.
“Having a great player like Armani, others could just stand around and watch,” he said. “But we are definitely clicking together more as a team.”
No. 5 Archbishop Hanna will play at No. 4 Stockton Christian at 7 p.m. Wednesday.
Stockton boasts 6-7 senior Cameron Pieters, who can throw his 225 pounds around in the paint, block shots and dominate the boards.
Pieters averages 30 points and 20 rebounds a game for the Eagles (24-4, 13-1).
That’s nearly half of Stockton’s production. The Eagles average 70 points and 43 rebounds a game.
So if you take Pieters out of the game, can you take down the Eagles?
“We’re going to make someone else beat us,” Jackson said. “It can’t be him. We’re going to go at him.”
That responsibility will fall to the Hawks’ big men, 6-1 senior Dakota Woltering and 6-2 junior Yeurra Blaylock.
Blaylock “has been blocking shots all year,” Jackson said. “But he hasn’t faced someone who’s going to block his shots.”
Woltering leads the Hawks with 15 points a game, backed up by Fernando Marquez’s 13 and Blaylock’s 12.
Woltering, at 240 pounds, might be able to push past Pieters.
“He is as nimble a player as you can find,” Jackson said. “Based on the demographics of his size, you wouldn’t expect him to be as fast, as light on his feet and as smooth maneuvering to the basket as he is.”
Facing a center four inches taller than he has all year doesn’t faze him, the coach said.
“He takes on the challenge. He doesn’t back down,” Jackson said.
At practice this week to prepare for the Stockton’s height advantage, Jackson enlisted the help of a teacher at the Hanna Boys School in Sonoma.
“We spent the day practicing how to front the post when you have someone taller than you,” he said. “Instead of telling them, I showed them by using one of our teachers, who is a rather tall guy — until my teacher got tired.”
In addition to the focus down low, Stockton will have to look out for two other Hawks, outside shooter Fernando Marquez and unsung hero Jesus Tremillo.
“He has really taken on an important role on the team,” Jackson said of Tremillo. “He’s not a stat guy. He may score two points a game and have four rebounds, but he does everything.”