WATSONVILLE—Monte Vista Christian senior forward Mason Beske came down with a small case of amnesia to forget about last year’s downward spiral during league play.
The Mustangs went winless in Pacific Coast Athletic League Gabilan division action. They also missed the Central Coast Section playoffs after failing to finish with at least a winning record in the preseason.
Beske is one of several returners that wants to move on, hoping to get at least into the postseason and a shot at a league title.
The 6-foot-4 forward team captain said this year’s squad has grown much closer as a team in the short amount of time they’ve had together.
“When we get to league we have a good shot of being a top contender,” he said. “And I feel like going into the playoffs I’m very confident seeing how much we grew from the start of the season until now.”
Beske said he feels like this year’s group is playing as a unit. He said a lot of the returners such as junior guard Armando Vasquez-Green have stepped up from the beginning of the season.
“We’re playing a lot better as a team,” Beske said. “We’re more unselfish, making the extra pass.”
Beske said he also likes the way senior guard Teddy Moore made huge strides over the summer and it’s shown with his point production going up as the season progresses.
“We just had a lot of players working in the offseason and the pick up of Simeon (Powell), who’s really good at facilitating, over the offseason, we really grinded and got a lot better,” he said.
Powell, a freshman guard, has slowly took over the starting role at the 1-spot. His quick feet and ability to set up plays makes him a valuable asset to this year’s group.
Powell, who moved to the area from Tennessee, said he’s trying to lead the Mustangs to something more and have them grow as a team.
“This is more than a game,” Powell said. “You spread your love through brotherhood, family, partnership and just trying to bring a winning attitude. I know everybody around California know that this team used to lose a lot but that’s not happening this year, no sir. ”
Powell’s winning attitude will need to start early and stay consistent. The Mustangs finished last year with a 6-18 overall record and went 0-10 in the PCAL Gabilan division, which is the top tier of the four divisions in the league.
M.V.C. lost 6-foot-6 forward Andrew Lee, Michael Phillips and J.J. Gonzales to graduation.
Mustangs coach Drew Snelgrove is in his second year with the program. He was a two-time section champion at Capital Christian in Sacramento and an assistant at Valley Christian in San Jose, advancing to the CCS postseason for nine years.
Snelgrove said having a freshman as the starting point guard is brand new to him but he has all the confidence in him.
“(Powell) is very talented and he’s going to be great,” Snelgrove said. “This is his baptism by fire.”
Snelgrove said they have sophomore Luis Quintero as the backup point guard. He is learning how to run the offensive system alongside Powell.
“The guys play hard, they work hard and practice hard,” Snelgrove said. “I have no complaints. Outside of having the little mental hiccups, I think we’re going to be OK.”
The Mustangs are currently 5-4 and are on a two-game winning streak. They recently competed in the 64th Emmett Thompson Memorial Dad’s Club Tourney at the beginning of this month.
Powell said they’ve been outplayed in some of their games but he also believes most of the time it’s just them not being on the same page.
“It’s just us, not listening to coach,” Powell said. “We just have to become more of a disciplined team. When people win they become complacent and I’m not trying to bring that attitude here.”
Powell said once they learn how to win they have to keep that drive to keep on winning. His biggest goal the rest of the way is to see each of his teammates thrive, which means constant improvement.
“I have very high confidence that I can lead this team to high expectations and I have high expectations for this team,” he said. “If everybody comes out confident, everybody stays up on their toes, keep their head on a swivel, everybody’s going to be alright.”
M.V.C. dropped from the Gabilan to the Mission division. It will join Christopher High (4-5), San Benito High (2-3), Seaside High (1-7), Stevenson School (4-3) and last year’s Cypress division champ North Monterey County High (1-3).
Beske said the Condors will be a team to look out for this season. However, they lost a big chunk of the offense with Dulian Morelos, who played three years at the varsity level, Joseph Bertao and Isaiah Solorio gone.
N.M.C. coach Patrick Kilty returns and is set to compete for the league crown in the PCAL-Mission this winter.
The Mustangs are thinking the same thing and Beske said a league championship is not far out of reach for them.
“I feel like if we play our basketball and we’re able to play together, I feel like we have a very good shot of beating a lot of these teams,” Beske said.
Editor’s Note:This article will be published in the Dec. 20 edition of The Pajaronian.