By Ted Apodaca
After struggling through the early part of the preseason, Magnolia High’s boys basketball team closed out the preseason on a three-game win streak. The Sentinels battled back from a 30-13 halftime deficit to defeat Pacifica, 54-48, on Thursday, in their preseason finale.
The win capped a three-game win streak to end preseason, but more importantly for Head Coach Damian Tello, it illustrated the team was back at the point where they ended last season and performed in the offseason.
“We had a real successful summer, so right now, we’re starting to see that emerge,” Damian Tello.
Magnolia had several players rejoin the team late due to football. Tello said there was some rust to shake off and time needed for the team to gel again. The win over Pacifica was also telling in that the Sentinels had lost to the Mariners in mid-December, 72-59.
Tello said he reminded the team that they had worked too hard not to be able to compete against teams like Pacifica. And that they had to stay focused if they hoped to compete for a playoff spot in the Orange League race.
The Sentinels were able to outscore the Mariners, 19-8, in the third quarter, including a three-pointer at the buzzer by Richard Gan, that cut the Mariner lead to 38-32.
In the fourth, the Sentinels continued to press on defense and were able to tie the game at 39-39 on a layup by Henry Tran off a great pass from Ahmed Badirr. Later, the Sentinels made two defensive stops that set up long passes to Tran for layups and a 47-45 Magnolia lead.
Pacifica regained the lead, 48-47 on a three pointer, but Magnolia controlled the game from there.
Tello said that creating offense with their defense will be key for the Sentinels this year. He said the effort the team showed in the second half against Pacifica is what they will need to win consistently.
“With the hustle they were showing today, it’s really effective,” Tello said.
Magnolia took third in the Orange League last year, edging out Century by a one game margin. Savanna was first and Katella took second. Tello said he believes this year the Sentinels can challenge for a league title.
Magnolia will open league at home on Saturday against Century, at 5 p.m. They will travel to Savanna on Wednesday, for a 7 p.m. game.