Last year, the Dons varsity boy’s basketball program had an outstanding season, one of their best in years. They made it all the way to the CIF semifinals, losing in a heartbreaker. Although most people might see that season as a success, the Dons were not satisfied. They saw the playoff run as an opportunity to learn and grow from their mistakes.
This year, the Dons started off auspiciously, as the varsity basketball team’s whole coaching staff changed. Both the varsity head and assistant coach were replaced with new Santa Barbara High School teachers Cory Adams and Greg Zuffelado, who have done amazing jobs this season as coaches.
The Dons had a solid preseason at 8-6, and were confident going into their first game against Santa Ynez. The game would be at Santa Ynez, but that was not a disadvantage as the Dons had only one home game during their preseason. To make matters better, Santa ynez did not have a very good team, and the Dons won with ease 67-42 which was a great way to start their Channel League season.
Their next game was against San Marcos at Santa Barbara City College, a new location able to fit thousands of people. This was one of the biggest games of the season, given that it is a rivalry game and it would be played at a college gym in front of tons of fans. The Dons were behind for most of the game. The Royals came out hot and hit 2 three pointers in a row to give San Marcos a 12-4 lead by the end of the 1st quarter. The Royals kept that lead and played tough defense in the second quarter, so tough, that one player inadvertently elbowed the Dons star forward Bryce Warrecker. He was forced to leave the game, and returned later in the second half with a protective face mask. San Marcos took advantage of the big man’s absence, and went on a run that put the Royals up 10 points in the middle of the second quarter. The Dons, however, did not let them go much further. Jasper Johnson, who had sat out for much of the season due to illness and injury, knocked down back-to-back threes and cut the deficit to two points. The score was 25-23 at the end of the first half. The game was back and forth in the third quarter, but the Royals went on another run to give them a six point lead at the end of the third quarter. The fourth quarter was all Dons though. Bryce Warrecker finally found his touch, and brought the Dons back into the game. After some big free throws made from both teams, the score was tied at 43-43 with 20 seconds left. The Dons had the ball and, after a missed three pointer from Johnson, they got the ball back under their own hoop with 1.1 seconds left. The Dons had one play left to win the game, and it was their final chance. Stephen Davis took the ball out. Jasper Johnson went off of a back screen, which blocked his defender from guarding him, and elevated toward the hoop. Davis tossed the ball up and connected with Johnson. Johnson, who was already in the air, got the ball in the key and threw the shot up. The crowd went silent. The ball dropped in, and the crowd erupted. The Dons fans stormed the court, San Marcos fans in shock. It was one of the greatest plays in San Marcos vs. Santa Barbara history. This improved their record to 2-0 in league, and 11-6 overall.
The Dons kept their momentum and were on a four-game win streak. Their next game was against Cabrillo at home. Although they started slow, the Dons defense took over in the second half and they finished the game with a 55-39 win over Cabrillo. Their next game was against Lompoc, at home once again. Lompoc posed no threat and the Dons crushed them, 78-40. The Dons took a detour, and snapped their win streak as they lost to Pasadena High School 57-45 at a non-league game despite their comeback.
Their next game was against Dos Pueblos at Dos Pueblos High School. The game was a huge success for the Dons as they got a big win over the chargers, 70-60, behind a very big game from Bryce Warrecker, who dropped 30 points. This would be the end of the first round in league, as they would play San Marcos for the second time this season. It would be a good game as both teams needed this win in order to win or tie for Channel League.
Once again, the Dons played San Marcos at Santa Barbara City College. And once again the stands were packed with fans. The game started fast, and the Dons never really got their footing. They were down in most of the first half and only had two leads in the entire game. But it never seemed to be a blowout either. Every time San Marcos scored, the Dons would come right back. They kept the game within tenpoints and showed potential throughout the game that they could win. But they had an off shooting night and missed a lot of free throws that could have put them up.
San Marcos hit a huge three pointer with two minutes left to put them up 43-41. Stephen Davis was able to hit one free throw, but again, the Royals converted and made a free throw after they were fouled, increasing their lead to three at 45-42. The Dons were able to get two more free throws to drop, but after a big layup with 6 seconds left in the game for the Royals, it was game over. The Dons were forced to throw a long pass down the court for a three, which was blocked by San Marcos. The Don’s crowd was stunned as the San Marcos crowd stormed the court. This was Santa Barbara’s first league loss which brought their record to 5-1 in league, and 14-6 overall. Their next game was against Santa Ynez at home. The Dons demolished Santa Ynez and in their 64-41. It was a big win coming off their loss against San Marcos.
They wanted to regain some momentum as they headed in their game against Lompoc, at Lompoc High School. Once again, Lompoc had no chance at beating the Dons, as Santa Barbara beat the Braves easily 71-58. Their next game was on the road again against Cabrillo. It was another easy victory for the Dons, as they only allowed Cabrillo to score 18 points in the first three quarters and beat them 58-31.
Their final game of the season was against Dos Pueblos. It was an important game that the Dons needed to win in order for them to get a good seed in CIF. Although the Dons started out slowly and were down 26-22 in the first quarter, they were able to keep their composure and make a quick comeback. The game was over in the third quarter as they were up by 30 points moving into the fourth quarter. The Dons ended up winning 67-48. It was a great way to wrap up Senior Night, and a fantastic way to end their Channel League season.
The Dons finished their regular season with a final record of 17-9 (9-1 in league). They are now looking ahead to the CIF playoffs. They hope that they can make it all the way to the CIF championship, and get their first ring since 2016. Good luck to the Dons in their future games.