WATSONVILLE—Watsonville High senior Karlos Corpus was fully confident the boys’ basketball team would end non-league on a high note prior to the start of league play in early January.
The standout forward had 15 points including four 3-pointers but it wasn’t enough to help the Wildcatz in an 83-81 double overtime loss to Scotts Valley in non-league action Tuesday night.
“We fought all the way but we needed to finish that game,” he said.
The plan was simple enough for Corpus and his teammates, which was to stop, or at least slow down, Falcons guard Tristan Roure from the start.
Roure managed to tally a game-high 32 points including nine in both 4-minute overtime periods.
“We played good defense, we hit our shots when we could,” Corpus said. “We just need to take over the game when we can.”
Watsonville coach Marcus Northcutt said making only 8-of-27 free throw attempts didn’t help their cause, either.
“Even with all of the little turnovers and the things they did that I didn’t want them to do…because we were playing so hard, we made up for the mistakes but you can’t make up for points,” he said.
The ‘Catz fell to 3-7 and need to find a way to quickly pivot after a complete turnaround from last year’s remarkable run.
Watsonville finished last season with a 17-7 overall record and were 11-1 in Pacific Coast Athletic League Santa Lucia Division play, finishing as co-champion with Soledad.
The ‘Catz lost the coin toss for the automatic Central Coast Section postseason berth and they didn’t earn an at-large bid, forcing them to miss the playoffs.
Watsonville was bumped up to the Cypress Division this season, while the Aztecs jumped up two divisions into the Mission Division.
Corpus said this season is not going quite as planned, but he’s hopeful they’ll turn it around once league play begins in less than weeks. He mentioned part of fixing their problem is simply finding their identity.
“It’s about leadership, I need to be better as a leader and varsity players need to step up,” he said. “We have some youngsters that came up from JV that need to get up to speed and fill their roles.”
One of Corpus’ biggest goals going into the season was to step up as the head honcho by becoming the team captain and leading them to victory.
“We just need to come together as a team, be us, find our identity and we’ll really fix it for sure,” Corpus said.
Watsonville is missing seven seniors from last year’s squad including Corpus’ former teammate Richie Ortiz—an All-PCAL Santa Lucia First Team selection—who averaged nearly 20 points per game.
Despite the big loss, the ‘Catz have a deep roster with eight returners and a trio of underclassmen called up from JV to help fill in some vacant positions.
The biggest challenge for Northcutt thus far is keeping players from sitting out due to illness. Plus, the recovery time for them to get back to full strength and up to speed takes longer than usual.
Since then, players have struggled to get on the same page. They lost the lead against two tough teams in Hollister and Alisal during the Solis-Miles Invitational on Dec. 2-3.
Tuesday night’s performance was much better in Northcutt’s eyes.
“If we do this in the Cypress [Division], we should be good,” he said.
Senior guard Tajin Olivas had a team-high 18 points for the Wildcatz including four 3-pointers, and fellow junior teammate Brody Legions added 10 points.
This year’s senior class also includes Osvaldo Bolanos, Matt Gonzalez, Eli Hernandez, Reis Vasconcellos and Damian Martinez, who scored all seven of his points in both overtime periods.
Others on the team include juniors Cristian Chavez, Oswaldo Hernandez, JR Ochoa and Josh Ybarra II, along with sophomores Erik Rodriguez and Nathan Aguilar, who added 11 points for the Wildcatz in Tuesday night’s loss to Scotts Valley.
“They really help our team but they need to get used to the varsity level,” Corpus said about the underclassmen.
The youngsters have 11 days until Watsonville’s league opener at North Salinas on Jan. 3 at 7pm.
The race for the Cypress Division crown will also feature Gonzales (1-6), Greenfield (3-3), King City (4-4), Marina (6-0), North Salinas (1-4), Rancho San Juan (5-2) and cross-town rival St. Francis (4-3).
“I can’t call it because if we’re going to not stay consistent and not finish stuff out, I’ll just keep saying the same thing until the season is over,” Northcutt said. “I don’t know how many times I’m going to say we had the game, we should’ve won. I don’t want to do this any more.”
Northcutt is looking forward to league play, especially after having already battled a hot Marina squad in the Wildcatz Tournament Black Bracket Championship game. The ‘Catz lost to the Mariners, 66-59.
Watsonville also wants to keep bragging rights over St. Francis after last year’s 46-41 non-league victory. It’s been a friendly rivalry that goes back to Corpus’ freshman year.
“It’s always fun playing them, it’s always fun having that rivalry,” he said. “We’ll definitely look forward to this game.”