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Spartans Plan To Capture More Than A Top Seed PDF Print E-mail
Written by Mike Terry   
Thursday, 20 February 2014 03:19

Let’s Get it Started — Sylmar guard Dion Bright (left) and forward Malcolm Wadlow are eager to prove why the Spartans
were given the top seed in the City boys’ Division II playoffs.

But Sylmar Will Have Plenty Of Competition In City Boys’ Division II Playoffs

The 2013-14 basketball season hasn’t exactly been a “Redemption Tour” for the Sylmar boys’ basketball team. They were pretty good last year, winning 21 games and reached the Los Angeles City Section Division II semifinals. But it is that semifinal game, a 49-48 loss to Gardena, that has been pushing and priming the Spartans this time around. Sylmar (20-11) will open this year’s Division II playoffs on Friday, Feb. 21, as the No.1 seed.

The Spartans, who were unbeaten in the Mission Valley League, would seem to have it all: a talented big man in 6-8 center Devenir Duruisseau, who averages nearly 19 points and 11 rebounds; a potent outside threat in shooting guard Dion Bright, who averages 13.4 points; long and limber wing players in Chance Cole and Malcolm Wadlow, who combine for 23.2 points and 9.7 rebounds; and a remaining roster of players comfortable and capable in the roles assigned to them. Now add this particular motivation, for both players and the coaches. Bring up last year’s Gardena game to Sylmar Coach Bort Escoto, and he looks like he just took a swig of sour milk.

“Last year was probably one of the worst defeats I’ve ever experienced,” Escoto said. “The game at Crenshaw back in 1999” — a 73-72 loss in the Division I quarterfinals — “was the worst ever. But last year’s was the second worst since I’ve been at the school. “We were in a situation where we were leading by two and had the game won. But there was a technical foul that was called that shouldn’t have been called…one of the kids was hanging on the rim. They got two foul shots and the ball with three seconds on the clock, and we ended up losing.

That was a hard pill to swallow; it still bothers me. “I haven’t watched that film and I haven’t watched the 1999 film,” he said. Bright, 17, a junior, wasn’t a starter on last year’s team. But he also hasn’t let go of that Gardena loss. “It’s driving me to want to get that ring,” he said. “You don’t want to feel that same feeling as last year when you left the court. … What I remember most about that game was turnovers and not finishing.

That and the technicals. It feels like they took the City championship from us.” But Bright sees a different outcome in the playoffs this time. He believes this Spartans team is better equipped to handle the pressures and demands of one-and-done playoff basketball.

“Getting the number one seed was a goal. But the main goal is to get that ring,” Bright said. “I think we’re like 10 times better than last year’s team. We’re closer as teammates, we have chemistry and we share the ball — we’re not selfish. I feel like last year’s team was more one-on-one.

This year we’re passing and sharing the ball. It feels better to pass and get a bucket, than to get a bucket and not pass.” Wadlow, 18, a senior who transferred to Sylmar from El Camino Real last year, only had this season to play with the Spartans. But, he said, he was able to blend in with his new teammates almost immediately. “We played a couple of games together, and we bonded,” Wadlow said. “I like this team better (than at ECR); I’m closer to them. It feels more like brothers.”

There is something to be said about team chemistry — at least when it’s good. Escoto, who's coached here 19 seasons and won a City 3A title in 1998, loves what he sees in this band of Spartans.

“This has been one of my favorite teams because of its experience,” the coach said. “I don’t have to do much coaching; they know what to do and can put things on automatic pilot. I just have to guide and direct them a little bit.

Other than that it’s been very easy this year — it’s fun. There’s a maturity factor that wasn’t here last year. “We were very talented last year. But we didn’t have any experience, and we didn’t have any chemistry. Everyone said ‘you guys should have won it because you were so talented.’ Well, I can remember some Laker teams that were very talented that didn’t win it all either because they didn’t have any chemistry; nothing wrong with them other than they didn’t click. We had a ton of talent last year, but the guys just didn’t click.

This team is much different; it has experience, they play well together, a lot of chemistry… the pieces are right.” Sylmar will find beginning Friday if, indeed, the pieces are right this time. Division II has arguably the most competitive of the five City Section playoff brackets; and coincidently, has the most Valley area teams competing.

This division has the best chance for lower seeds to upset higher seeds because more teams know and have played each other. The Spartans, especially Escoto, can’t wait to get started. “I’m very confident,” he said. “Truthfully speaking, it’s ours to win. We have experience, we have size, we have the athletes. If I told you something else I’d be lying or sugarcoating it. The truth is, we have the talent to win it. If we lose, we helped the other team (to win). If you look at us on paper or physically, we’re the team that should be number one.”

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Last Updated on Thursday, 20 February 2014 16:56