ATASCADERO — The Atascadero Greyhounds hosted their 54th annual Christmas boys basketball tournament at the end of last week and into the weekend. The Hounds did not fare as well as they might have hoped, going 0-4 over the weekend, but with the preseason now behind them, it is time to look forward as league play begins this evening.
Atascadero invited seven schools to participate in the tournament. All but one of the teams were from out of the area with the only other local school being the Paso Robles Bearcats who have been one of the entries for many of the 54 years but were not in attendance last year. The Templeton Eagles have also attended the tournament in years past but decided to head on the road to the Damien High School tournament down south this year as they look to build team comradery on the road.
Atascadero, Albany, Clovis-Buchanan, Ocean View, Hanford, Bakersfield-North, Montclair and Paso Robles played in the three-day tournament with Albany emerging as the undefeated champion on Saturday afternoon.
It was a tough go of it for the Hounds in their own tournament, their average margin of defeat was 23 points, but their closest and most competitive game was their last against Montclair where they had a lead in the fourth quarter but couldn't hold off the Cavaliers after senior center Cade VanAllen fouled out.
In their first game, Atascadero took on North and just couldn’t keep up with the Stars’ scoring as they ran away with the game in the second half winning 65-45. Atascadero played two games on Thursday, with their second coming against Buchanan, and their fatigue showed in the second half.
The Hounds came out energized and worked the ball inside to VanAllen early and often. The 6-foot-7-inch big man was having his way against the Buchanan zone in the paint and led the Hounds to a 39-30 halftime lead. However, Atascadero’s Achilles heel all season has been sustaining their offense late in the game as they are averaging less than 10 points in the fourth quarter and the late-game woes combined with heavy legs held the Hounds to only 17 second-half points. The Bears outscored the Hounds 46-17 in the second half to win the game 76-56.
Atascadero played the eventual tournament champion and the current 85th ranked team in the state, according to Maxpreps.com, in their third game and the Cougars’ press kept the Hounds from establishing any kind of rhythm. Albany won the game 68-17.
In their fourth and final game, Atascadero faced Montclair High School in a close game that Atascadero had chances to win but couldn’t close down the stretch after losing their leading scorer, rebounder and shot blocker to fouls. The Hounds were trailing by six points at halftime and grabbed their first lead at 34-33 early in the third quarter on a Mitchell Carpenter bucket. Carpenter led the team in scoring with 21 points, including shooting 4-for-8 from behind the three-point line, followed by VanAllen who posted 18 points and 13 rebounds, including eight offensive. Atascadero shot 45 percent from behind the arc (9-for-20) and made 80 percent of their free throws.
With the nonleague schedule behind them, Atascadero will begin league play when they host Morro Bay on Friday night.
“It helped a lot, all of these preseason games,” head coach Augie Johnston said after Saturday’s game. “I think it helped us realize that we can play small and big, which is good and gives us some flexibility moving forward and tonight we played small for the first time in a little bit and that was nice.”
As they head into Ocean League play Atascadero will work on their ability to break the press, which is something that has, at times,
“We are hot and cold against the press,” Johnston said. “Some games we break it for layup’s game and win those games and other games it is difficult to go against the press and we struggle. We definitely have some practice time now where we can go back to the drawing board a little bit and make a tweak and figure out where we need to go and some game film to watch and after that, I think we will be fine.”
Ocean League play will be interesting this season as only one of the teams in the league is currently over .500 — Orcutt Academy. Atascadero currently sits in