WATSONVILLE—St. Francis High junior Sam Braun was forced to sit on the sideline during the first half of the basketball season after he transferred from Soquel High in the offseason.
The standout forward was frustrated he couldn’t play immediately, but it did give him a chance to watch the game from a different perspective while also building a relationship with his new teammates.
“I had to think, ‘keep working, you’ll get to play at one point’ and once I do I’ll get to put on a show with my boys,” Braun said.
Braun made quite the debut with the Sharks boys’ basketball team by hitting eight 3-pointers in a 44-41 win over Greenfield in Pacific Coast Athletic League Cypress Division play on Jan. 5.
His go-ahead score with four seconds left to play in the game was just enough for the victory.
Two days later, Braun followed up with a game-high 35 points including seven 3-pointers in a 74-47 non-league win over Pacific Collegiate School.
He has an average of 28.3 points per game and has made 27 three point shots in four games played this season.
Braun is brimming with confidence knowing the coaches have trust in him to knock down a jump shot whenever he’s open. He finished with a team-high 23 points including five 3-pointers in Wednesday night’s 67-47 win over North Salinas in league action.
“I’m a shooter, I’ve always been,” Braun said. “I got the green light when I’m open, the coaches believe in me to shoot it. So, I let it fly.”
Sharks junior guard Joseph Rose was stoked to have Braun finally join the team, adding depth to a group that can already hit shots from beyond the arc.
“[Braun’s] a lengthy body and he’s able to pretty much do whatever he wants to do on the court,” Rose said. “It’s easy to kick it to him and he hits that 3-[pointer].”
Rose was also sharp from long range with six 3-pointers and finished with 20 points in Wednesday night’s win against North Salinas.
“Once I see a shot in, I just keep shooting that and that definitely keeps my confidence up during the game,” he said.
It was a much-needed victory for St. Francis, which remains atop of the Cypress Division with a 3-0 record in league play.
They’re fighting to capture their first league title since sharing the Cypress Division crown with Gilroy High in 2019-20.
Braun said their suffocating defense is currently playing lights out, racking up steals and creating opportunities for them on the offensive side.
Sharks junior Junior Ibarra and senior Christian Magaña have also been instrumental in grabbing the offensive rebounds. Both players have been able to keep possessions alive by kicking the ball out to an open teammate for a three point bucket.
“Second chance points are huge for us right now,” Braun said.
Part of their success is attributed to hanging out together outside of the sport and continuing to build the family atmosphere throughout the season.
Braun noted they’ll still need to work harder during practice in order to continue knocking down shots and keeping the intensity up.
“The momentum is flowing with us right now,” he said.
The Sharks had some of their momentum killed after a pair of league contests, including their league opener against Rancho San Juan High, postponed due to the aftermath of the rainstorms in the Central Coast.
St. Francis returned to PCAL Cypress Division action in winning form with a 68-61 victory over King City on Jan. 12.
“We kind of need to get these wins up so we can get ready for the league championship pretty soon,” Rose said.
Rose mentioned it’s nice being able to return, especially after having flashbacks of last year when they couldn’t play because of Covid-19. He wasn’t sure if more games would be canceled or if they would be able to play them again.
Both postponed league games will be rescheduled starting with an anticipated meeting against cross-town rival Watsonville (5-7, 2-0) on Monday at 7pm.
Prior to that, the Sharks will play at Gonzales on Friday at the same time.
Rose echoed Braun by saying they’ll need to be more aggressive in practice and leave any outside distractions behind.
“We just need to stay focused right now, and we’re heading toward that [league] championship,” Rose said.