In each of his past nine seasons leading Cesar Chavez’s boys basketball team, coach Gary Lee has led the Champions to no fewer than 20 victories.
They reached the final four in Division I three of the past four seasons, reaching the final game in 2010 and 2012.
They’ve never won a state championship.
But Lee’s teams are always knocking on the door.
This year, it has been a bit of a struggle for a team that has had a tough time getting senior star forward Pablo Rivas in a rhythm with a new backcourt.
Cesar Chavez came into the week 9-5. It fought back to make it a close game in the final quarter in a loss to Phoenix Shadow Mountain in the second round of the Phoenix Union High School District Holiday Classic.
The next night, Cesar Chavez came out flat and lost to Phoenix Carl Hayden.
There is time to turn the season around, and Lee knows how to press the right buttons. He has been patient.
“We had a lot of kids graduated last year,” Lee said. “We had senior guards with senior leadership last year. We had three kids who played in the state tournament last year.
“There is good talent. We’re just trying to find our rhythm.”
Junior guard Tarion May has had good moments on the court, along with junior forward Rashaad Goolsby.
Rivas leads the team in scoring and rebounding.
Without the experience of last year’s team, Rivas so far hasn’t been able to string together games that led to being chosen All-Arizona his junior year.
He still is a force on the glass, on defense and in the offense at 6 feet 5.
“Pablo has played well,” Lee said. “But it’s kind of like in spurts. He’ll be OK for quarter, and in another quarter play really well. When we catch a rhythm, he looks great, then we’ll struggle for a while.”
With the second half of the season under way, Cesar Chavez still believes it can catch fire and make another big run at state.
Rivas’ experience will be crucial.
“There are high expectations placed on them,” Lee said. “They want to have success. They need to find their own way of getting it. I think we’ll be fine. It’s just taking some time to find out who we are.”