WATSONVILLE—Senior Joey Garibay threw on his white St. Francis High uniform and stepped on the Sharks’ home court for what could have been his last time.
The Sharks’ star guard and his senior teammates rose to the occasion, as they defeated Soledad High, 65-35, on Senior Night.
“It feels good because we started here and to end it with a (win), it’s big,” Garibay said.
Garibay finished with a game-high 24 points for the Sharks, who are now 7-2 in Pacific Coast Athletic League Mission division play.
The win also placed St. Francis in position for at least a share of the PCAL-Cypress title with Gilroy High (11-8, 6-1).
The Mustangs beat the Sharks, 54-40, in the teams’ first meeting on Jan. 29. The squads meet again in Thursday night’s season finale in Gilroy.
The game is set for a 7 p.m. tip.
“We’re ready for the showdown,” Garibay said.
Seniors Lawson Orradre and Dylan Kane were also happy to pick up a win in their final regular-season home game.
Kane said he didn’t care about the scoreboard because what mattered most was being able to play together on the same court one last time. He reminisced about their days on the freshman team. The players weren’t nearly as close as they are today.
“It’s just crazy how close we’ve gotten over the last four years. I’m just really happy about it,” Kane said.
Orradre, who was the Pajaronian’s Most Valuable Player in football, said all the anticipation builds up for the last home game.
“This is the last time you’re probably going to have in your gym, in your home, playing with your brothers,” Orradre said. “I think it’s awesome to have that experience and for everyone to do it.”
Orradre said they built a type of chemistry that doesn’t just happen overnight.
However, the Sharks did not look to be on the same page to begin Monday night’s game.
They struggled to find any sense of rhythm on offense in the first quarter, turning the ball over and allowing the Aztecs to stick around.
Garibay was held scoreless in the first period but started cooking in the second, scoring 10 of his 24 points.
Kane said their defense set the tone and led to good things on the offensive side.
They led 23-11 going into halftime.
The Sharks also got it done under the hoop with second-chance points. Junior center Isaiah Gonzalez had 15 points, including 11 in the second half.
Kane finished with nine points, while Orradre had 10 points.
“(Gonzalez) is amazing, he puts everything up. Same with Lawson (Orradre), too,” Kane said. “When you have the top two rebounders in the league on the same team it’s really hard to stop. And that’s really huge for us and probably the most important thing for our offense to click.”
Kane said the Sharks are currently coasting on a wave of momentum. They’ve won three straight league games after back-to-back losses to Gilroy and Pajaro Valley High.
“We were struggling to get into rhythm on offense,” Kane said. “Our defense always seems to be there for us but once we got going on offense it was big for us.”
Kane said he knew a loss against Soledad meant there would be no shot for at least a share of first place.
He recalls how well Gilroy game planned for them in the first meeting, keeping Garibay out of the game.
“We just have to learn what they’re doing on defense, maybe draw something new up on offense to counter what they did to us,” Kane said.
Orradre said the Sharks are still looking to win the league championship, which could give them momentum heading into the Central Coast Section playoffs, and possibly another shot at a home game.
“I think we’re going to beat (Gilroy),” Orradre said. “I think we have the power, we have the strength and the speed. Most importantly I think we have the heart to beat them and I think that’s what we’re going to do on Thursday.”