WATSONVILLE — When Pajaro Valley head coach Andre Bailey first saw Christian Quintero play basketball as an eighth grader at Rolling Hills he knew he was going to have a special player on his hands this season.
So he gave Quintero an ultimatum on the first day of tryouts: be named the Monterey Bay League Pacific division’s Freshman of the Year or be ready for the toughest summer of his young life.
“He told me that if I didn’t win that award I was going to have to do double work in the summer,” Quintero said. “So I’m really glad I got it.”
In retrospect, so are the Grizzlies.
With his scoring punch and defensive presence, Pajaro Valley finished second in the MBL-P and not only made it back to the Central Coast Section playoffs after a three-year absence but recorded its first postseason victory since the 2008-09 season.
The 5-foot-10 guard could finish around the rim with the best of them and his 3-point shot slowly developed into a valuable asset as the season progressed. He finished second in scoring (9.7 points per game) for the Grizzlies and scored in double figures in eight of his last 11 games.
Quintero said the award, which the league’s coaches announced on Tuesday along with several others, and the bounce-back season belonged to the entire team.
“It was a really great honor playing with these guys,” Quintero said. “These guys are great friends and great people. It was really great playing with them my freshman year. Going to playoffs as a freshman means a lot to me and they helped me get there.”
Bailey said the challenge he gave to Quintero in the preseason was not one he dished out lightly.
“When I watched him play in eighth grade I knew he was going to be playing for me as a freshman,” Bailey said. “He was just that smart and he wanted it that bad. And then the summer that he spent with us just confirmed it. He was going to be that kid.”
Quintero said he grew up playing football for the Jr. Wildcatz but changed sports during sixth grade when he met Rolling Hills Middle School basketball coach Kory Chavez, who pushed him every day in practice both physically and mentally. Until then, Quintero said he had only watched one professional basketball game before stepping onto the court: Game 6 of the 2008 NBA Finals between the Los Angeles Lakers and Boston Celtics.
“It’s a big part of my life now,” said Quintero, who added that his favorite player is Oklahoma City Thunder star Russell Westbrook. “I watch basketball every day.”
Bailey was named the co-Coach of the Year with Alisal head coach Jose Gil.
After only two seasons at the helm, Bailey turned the Grizzlies from a bottom-of-the-league team into a title contender. Last season they won only two games and failed to steal a win in league play. This season’s 17 wins were the second most in program history.
“It was sweet because one of the coaches nominated me,” Bailey said. “I’m glad that my peers thought I could coach the game of basketball.”
Alisal senior Rene Hurtado was named the MBL-P’s Most Valuable Player and Josue Gil Silva earned Sophomore of the Year honors.
Along with his Freshman of the Year honor, Quintero also made the MBL-P’s eight-man First Team. Watsonville senior big man Andres Velez joined Quintero after helping the Wildcatz earn their first CCS appearance since the 2011-12 season.
Watsonville senior James Gomez Jr. and Pajaro Valley senior Ray Escobar were named to the MBL-P Second Team.
Pajaro Valley junior Tony Reyes and Watsonville senior Gabe Perez made the MBL-P All-Defensive team.
Seaside won the Elgie Bellizio Sportsmanship award.
Three locals were given honorable mention: Jonathan Chavez (Pajaro Valley), Gio Gonzalez (Watsonville) and Perez (Watsonville).
North Monterey County senior Jeremy Heitzman and Monte Vista Christian junior Lucas Schmidt were recently named to the MBL-Gabilan division’s First Team.
Heitzman, a 6-foot-4 big, averaged 18.6 points and 12.8 rebounds this season and shot 52.7 percent from the field for the Condors, who made their fifth straight CCS playoff appearance.
Schmidt, meanwhile, averaged 13.5 points and 12.6 rebounds per game while shooting 51 percent from the field. The 6-foot-8 center helped the Mustangs to third place in the MBL-G as well as their eighth straight postseason berth.
MVC junior guard Miles Greene and senior forward Carl Snyder and NMC’s senior guard Steven Flores made the MBL-G Second Team.
The Mustangs won the Elgie Bellizio Sportsmanship award.
Palma senior guard Jamaree Bouyea earned league MVP honors for the second straight season.
Monterey’s Tahjee Ordonio was named the Sophomore of the Year.
NMC’s senior guard Joseph Barrios and MVC’s Snyder made the All-Defensive team.