Vacations are nice, but in times like this you’re forced to play a fast-break offense to get back into the game.
I returned Monday from two weeks off, and lo and behold, league play for high school boys basketball tips off Wednesday.
You won’t have to wait long for the critical games to begin. Highlighting Wednesday’s Monterey Bay League Gabilan Division openers are Seaside at Salinas and Hollister at Monterey.
I’ll be at the Salinas-Seaside game, which marks Year II of the post-Joe Chappell era. Which means it’s also Year II of the Jens Gordon era.
Seaside went 20-4 overall last year, which just happened to be the highest winning percentage (.833) in the 16-year career of Seaside coach Kelvin Garnett. His previous best was in 1999-2000 (.827) when his Spartans went 24-5.
Now that Chappell has retired with his Central Coast Section leading 687 wins — a number that may never be surpassed — Garnett began this season as the winningest active coach in Monterey County with 266 victories. His teams have won 20 or more games seven times.
Here is a list of the number of victories by active boys basketball coaches in Monterey County who have coached for at least five years (totals do not include this season): Jose Gil of Alisal, 208; Paul Alioto of Palma, 174; Mark Haddan of Alvarez, 171 (57 at King City, 27 at Monte Vista Christian, 87 at Alvarez); Greg Daniels of Monterey, 125; Dan Powers of Pacific Grove, 120; Matt Arruda of Stevenson, 109; Jesus Ramirez of King City, 93 (11 at Greenfield); Alan Green of North Salinas, 61.
Still needed to be tabulated is the win total for Carmel coach Rich Franks. He’s only in his third year at Carmel, but was coaching long before he took over the Padre program.
Other notable win totals are 491 by former Palma coach Ron Critchfield, 392 by former Alisal coach Jim Rear and 273 for Todd Buller, who coached Pacific Grove from 1990-2005.
* There will be no unbeaten boy’s basketball team this year from Monterey County. In fact, most have struggled just to stay above .500.
Then again, it has been 18 years since any county team has gotten off to something of a sizzling start. The last to do so was the 1994-95 Salinas High team that finished the regular season 26-1. The Cowboys won their first 18 games before falling to Monterey in overtime, 73-70. They didn’t lose again until falling to St. Francis 85-60 in a CCS semifinal game. The Cowboys went 28-2 overall.
When Palma won its state title in 1992 and finished 29-2 overall, its first loss came in game 12, 61-60 to Santa Cruz.
That same year Seaside also reached a state title game (lost to Morningside, 79-72). The Spartans went 22-3 in the regular season, but two of those losses came in the first three games and three defeats came in the first eight games. Seaside then reeled off 24 straight wins – four came in its CCS title chase and three more were NorCal victories, including an emotional and physical 91-82 win over Hayward.
Here is a list of county teams with impressive overall records and how early in the season they suffered their first loss: Salinas High 23-1 in 2010-11 (loss came in game 8 against Antelope); Monterey 25-1 in 2009-10 (loss came in game 6, 66-59 to Valley Christian); Palma 23-2 in 2006-07 (losses came in game 3 to Mitty, 64-42 and in game 10 to Oakridge, 43-34); Pacific Grove 21-3 in 2004-05 (first loss in game 3, 61-60 to Pioneer); Monterey 22-2 in 2004-05 (first loss in game 7, 72-67 to Oakland Tech); Salinas 25-2 in 2000-01 (first loss in game 6, 62-49 to Santa Cruz); Palma 22-2 in 1999-2000 (first loss in game 4, 53-50 to Califronia High); North Salinas 24-2 in 1998-99 (first loss in game 4 to St. Ignatius); Pacific Grove 23-2 in 1997-98 (first loss in game 2, 58-54 to Seaside).
* Is there a high scorer in the house? I mean a really high scorer. It’s been six years since any Monterey County player has averaged 25 or more points during league play. The last to do it was Orlando Johnson of Palma, who averaged 26.6 per game in 2007.
Jesse Jasso of Soledad came close in 2004 when he led the MTAL in scoring at 24.2.
Rudy Botello of Soledad buried 40 3-point field goals in 2005 but fell short of the 25 point per game mark, at 23.9.
In the last 26 years, or ever since I’ve been tracking leading scorers from Monterey County, the highest per game average came in 1994 when Addison (no, it wasn’t Tito Addison and for the life of me I can’t remember his first name) averaged 29 per game for Seaside. Darnell Harris of North Salinas was right behind at 28.7.
Kyle Sharp netted 29.7 points per game in 2005, but that was for Hollister.
* In other games of note this week, Alisal is at Alvarez on Wednesday to open the MBL Pacific Division while Soledad hosts Carmel, Greenfield is at Gonzales and King City goes to Pacific Grove in MTAL openers.
Palma opens league play Friday at Monte Vista Christian. Also Friday, Salinas visits Gabilan Division favorite Hollister.
George Watkins is a sports writer for The Salinas Californian. His prep basketball notebook appears every Tuesday. He can be reached at email@example.com and at 754-4264. He can also be followed on Twitter at watkins_salnews.