The Aptos High boys' basketball team celebrates after the Mariners beat Santa Cruz High in SCCAL action on Jan. 28. With the win, Aptos improved to 7-0 in league play. (Raul Ebio/special to The Pajaronian)

APTOS—It took nearly a month for the Aptos High boys’ basketball team to go toe-to-toe against Santa Cruz High, which has been the league’s juggernaut for a little more than a decade.

The delay was well worth it as senior guard Cameron Saldana finished with 18 points to help the Mariners get past the Cardinals, 60-49, in Santa Cruz Coast Athletic League action on Jan. 27.

“I feel like it was definitely a team effort and we just came out here and we executed and did what we had to do,” Saldana said. “Not only on offense but also on defense.”  

The Mariners’ defense held Santa Cruz standout forward Aden Cury to 15 points, including just six points in the first half.

Santa Cruz took its first and only lead of the game, 16-15, in the first quarter. But, they left too many points at the free throw line by making 12-of-25 attempts from the charity stripe.  

Cury missed all four of his free throw attempts in the first half and a total of nine for the game. Boon Gregor had 11 points for the Cardinals (13-5, 4-1), and Kosi Warren-House added 10.

Saldana, who suffered cramps in his right calf late in the fourth quarter, had to carry his team after two of his teammates fouled out late in the fourth quarter. 

“I had to work through that and I pushed through it,” Saldana said about playing through the pain caused by the camping. “I caught one actually while I was dribbling and I didn’t let it affect me.” 

Aptos center Jack Spinelli finished with 20 points and 10 rebounds but he was one of the players that got into early foul trouble. They managed to hold on to their lead in the first three quarters but it wasn’t by much. 

Santa Cruz went on an 8-2 run to start the third quarter and cut the deficit to 33-31. The Mariners responded and Spinelli scored two straight buckets, including a free throw attempt that gave them 42-37 heading into the final stanza. 

Spinelli fouled out shortly after Marcel Martin picked up his fifth personal foul, and it was up to someone else to step it up with a little less than five minutes to play. 

For the Cardinals, it was the perfect chance to take advantage with two of the Mariners’ key players forced to sit on the bench. Saldana scored seven points in the fourth quarter but it was two unsung heroes that saved the day. 

“It was just grit, 100% grit,” Saldana said. “I trusted my guys, they were doubling me, tripling me, coming off that screen. So, I just had to look for those open guys and I had faith in them that they knocked down their shots. They knocked them down and that’s how we won.”

Aptos sealed the deal with a pair of 3-pointers from Hassan Ayyad and one from Trevor Brady that gave Aptos its biggest lead of the game, 60-44. Both players made a combined five 3-pointers. 

“Last year, Santa Cruz came and they beat us twice,” Ayyad said. “I was like, this is our time. We’ve gotten better, more height, more strength, let’s finish this. It feels good to win.”

Ayyad said that pulling off the win last week was a big boost and it gives them momentum going into the final stretch of SCCAL play.

“We lost our starting point guard but we’ve gone out and played as a team,” he said. “To beat Santa Cruz, the No. 1 team in the league, is amazing… I’m proud of our team, we deserve this.” 

Saldana agreed with Ayyad, but he knows there’s still a long way to go until the season is over.

“It’s just one game, one game at a time,” he said. “We can’t look over this game. We’ll take it in today, we’ll celebrate it and tomorrow act like nothing happened… we gotta take care of business.”

The Mariners remain undefeated in SCCAL play after a 60-40 victory against San Lorenzo Valley High on Feb. 2. With the win, they improved to 7-0 in league play and remain atop of the league standings.

They jumped out to a 14-6 lead after the first quarter and led 29-19 going into halftime. Aptos extended the lead, 44-30, going into the final stanza and never looked back.

Spinelli had a team-high 15 points and 17 rebounds for the Mariners. Saldana added 14 points, seven rebounds and five steals and teammate Harrison Bloom had 11 points and three assists. 

Next up, the Mariners (18-3, 7-0) have an anticipated rematch at Santa Cruz today at 7:30pm. 

Aptos 76, at Harbor 41: Cameron Saldana had 18 points and five assists to lead the Mariners to an SCCAL win on Jan. 25.

Trevor Brady scored 13 points for the Mariners and Jack Spinelli had 11 points and 12 rebounds.

Aptos 62, Harbor 36: Jack Spinelli had 14 points and 14 rebounds in the Mariners’ make-up SCCAL game on Jan. 24.

The Mariners led 25-6 lead after one quarter and 41-20 at the half.

Trevor Brady and Johnny Cornejo each added nine points for the Mariners.

Stevenson 56, St. Francis 12: Dez Litel had five points for the Sharks in a loss to the Pirates in Pacific Coast Athletic League Mission Division action Jan. 31. 

Evan Johnson scored 17 points for Stevenson (13-3, 3-0), which remains unbeaten in league play.

St. Francis (6-10, 1-5) will host Monte Vista Christian (2-13, 0-3) on Wednesday at 7pm.  

Alvarez 79, St. Francis 30: Miles Guardino led the Sharks with nine points in their PCAL Mission Division loss to the Eagles on Jan. 29. 

Christian Mangaña scored eight points and Dez Litel added seven for St. Francis. 

Stevenson 57, St. Francis 41: Joseph Rose made four 3-pointers and finished with a team-high 16 points in the Sharks’ PCAL Mission Division loss Jan. 27.

Kyle Dyer scored 11 points and Dez Litel added eight points for the Sharks.

San Benito 55, St. Francis 44: Kyle Dyer scored 13 points for the Sharks in their loss to the Haybalers in PCAL Mission Division play on Jan. 24.

Miles Guardino had 10 points, Dez Litel scored eight points and Diego Rameriz added seven.

Watsonville 64, King City 60: Jacob Marinez scored a season-best 26 points including a pair of 3-pointers for the Wildcatz in their win against the Mustangs in PCAL Santa Lucia Division play on Feb. 1. 

Matthew Gonzalez came off the bench and added 10 points, including a pair of 3-pointers. 

Bryce Blair hit four 3-pointers and finished with a team-high 15 points for the Mustangs. Raul Garcia added 14 points.

Watsonville (13-6, 7-0) plays at Rancho San Juan on Thursday at 7pm.

Watsonville 79, Rancho San Juan 72 (OT): Senior Richie Ortiz had 29 points, including nine in the overtime period to help the Wildcatz get past the Trailblazers in PCAL Santa Lucia Division play Jan. 29.

Jacob Marinez scored 17 points for Watsonville, which rallied back in the fourth quarter and outscored RSJ, 13-6, in overtime. Oswaldo Hernandez added 16 points for the Wildcatz.

Watsonville 60, Gonzales 38: Senior Richie Ortiz finished with a career-high 30 points in the second half, and the Wildcatz won their PCAL Santa Lucia Division game Monday.

Ortiz made four 3-pointers for the Wildcatz, who remain undefeated in league play. 

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A Watsonville native who has a passion for local sports and loves his community. A Watsonville High, Cabrillo College, San Jose State University and UC Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism alumnus, he primarily covers high school athletics, Cabrillo College athletics, various youth sports in the Pajaro Valley and the Santa Cruz Warriors. Juan is also a video game enthusiast, part-time chef (at home), explorer and a sports junkie. Coaches and athletic directors are encouraged to report scores HERE.


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