Nicholas Mattson/Atascadero News & Paso Robles Press
Paso Robles High School junior Sebastian Galsim drives for a layup against East Bakersfield in December at Atascadero High.
Season in balance for rivals tonight
ATASCADERO — Heading into the first meeting of the season between the rivals, the Atascadero and Paso Robles high school varsity boys basketball teams come in with the same squad goals, but on very different trajectories.
Atascadero comes off a solid victory over defending CIF Southern Section Division V champion St. Joseph, 74-63. Paso Robles limps away from a drubbing by Arroyo Grande, 71-39.
Despite the apparent disparity, there are no guarantees when it comes to the battle between the crimson and the orange.
Tonight the lights will be on in PRHS Gil Asa Gymnasium, and the Bearcats will be rising to defend their hardwood against the visiting Greyhounds — expect fireworks.
The loss to Arroyo Grande left the Bearcats with a 1-3 PAC 8 League record, and facing an uphill battle to climb back into the running for a playoff spot.
Between them and their squad goals stands the Atascadero Greyhounds, who are coming off a roaring comeback victory over St. Joseph.
The Greyhounds faced a 37-25 deficit at halftime, and the deficit grew to 18-points early in the third quarter.
On the shoulders of a strong performance by AHS junior Kyler Warren, and a perfect 5 for 5 performance behind the arc, the Greyhounds charged back to pull within 53-47 by the end of the third quarter.
The game was billed as a battle between the Greyhounds’ high-scorer, senior Elijah Cooks, and St. Joseph leader JoJo Walker. However, Walker went down with a first-quarter ankle injury after scoring just five points. He did not return, and Atascadero made good on the opportunity.
Warren, who has averaged a double-double this season, played big with 21 points, four assists, and two blocks.
Cooks hit on a double-double as well, with 18 points and 10 rebounds, padding with five assists, five blocks, two assists, and two steals.
The duo led the Greyhounds to a come-from-behind fourth-quarter performance, outscoring the Knights, 27-10, in the final period to put the game away.
Knocking down a pair of 3-pointers on his way to a 10 point, six rebound, three assist, one steal game, AHS senior Trevor Howell made an impact in the second quarter.
Senior Marco Rojas was the fourth Greyhound to score double-digits, with 12 points, and senior Lucas Sprouse scored nine points and added 11 rebounds.
The game gave the Hounds a leg up in the race for the PAC 8 crown — with Mission Prep dropping a 66-63 game to Righetti, the Greyhounds sit tied with the Knights and Royals at the top of the PAC 8 with 3-1 records.
For both the Greyhounds and the Bearcats, a great deal rests on the results of tonight’s game.
The Greyhounds look to continue a roll at the top of league, and the Bearcats are a hairball away from losing sight of the CIF horizons. Both enter the game with a need for a win to keep the wind at their back as they head toward midseason.
One thing for certain, is that the fans in the stadium will be on the edge of their seats when Cooks fills a transition lane, anticipating the dunk show. In the middle, Warren will be towering over PRHS senior center Mason Wiesner, and Wiesner will have to play bigger than life to slow him down.
How the Bearcats perform from the perimeter, including behind the 3-point line, will be a big determining factor in the ebb and flow of the ball game.
Tipoff is scheduled for 7 p.m. at PRHS Gil Asa Gymnasium. Freshman begin at 3:30, and junior varsity at 5:15.
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