Submitted by Denair High School
The Denair High School boys basketball team picked a bad night to have one of its worst shooting games of the season, falling to Summerville 55-32 on Wednesday in the first round of the Sac-Joaquin Section Division V playoffs.
The Coyotes knew going in they would be physically overmatched by the much bigger Bears. Their best chance to overcome that was to shoot well from the perimeter. Unfortunately, Denair went just 5-for-27 from the 3-point arc while consistently giving up second and third chances on defense because of Summerville’s size advantage.
“We were very good defensively for what we have,” Coach R.J. Henderson said. “But there were probably eight to 10 possessions where Summerville had three or four shots at it. I think a lot of our guys – even our guards – expended a lot of energy on defense, which affected their legs and their shots on offense.”
The only Denair player to find the range from 3-point land was Drew Pritchard, who made 4 of his 11 attempts. The rest of the Coyotes were a combined 1-for-16.
“It was high volume without a lot of reward,” Henderson said. “They had some guys who closed out on our shooters who were athletic and long.”
Despite its poor shooting, Denair trailed by only eight points at halftime and had narrowed the gap to five with about 3 minutes left in the third quarter. But Summerville built its lead to 11 points going into the fourth period and then gradually pulled away.
Though the season ended with a loss, Henderson and his players achieved one of their goals – to make the playoffs. It was the first time Denair (13-13) qualified for postseason in seven years. The Coyotes – with only two seniors on their nine-man roster – improved dramatically from November to February. They finished second in the Southern League to Mariposa, which earned them the No. 11 seed in the playoffs.
Henderson believes this year’s success can be a springboard to even loftier goals next year.
“I think we got pretty much everything out of this season, which is about all you can do as a coach,” Henderson said. “Everything went pretty much our way this year. I’m extremely happy. We wanted to get in the playoffs and we did. Next year’s goals change. Those preseason games are important. You want to win. You want to host a game and win in February. That’s where we stand.”
He said he and his assistant coaches, along with the players, will take a couple of weeks to “decompress” before turning their attention to next season. For players not involved in spring sports, the gym will be open so they can hone their skills. And he expects an active travel league schedule for Denair’s players later this spring and early summer.
“We’ll have 15 or 16 guys vying for 11 or 12 spots (next season),” Henderson said. “We’ll have individual meetings this Friday and talk about everything they have to do. … We need to get stronger. Numbers equal competition, which is a good thing for us. We’ve got two all-league players returning, seven guys who have experience and nine guys fighting for spots.”
The renewed energy with Denair’s basketball program is evident by more than what’s happening on the court. Wednesday night, about 100 students and more than 50 parents and other adults made the drive to Tuolumne City to support the Coyotes.
“We had a great traveling group,” Henderson praised. “It was loud and rowdy. I think we had as many fans in the stands as Summerville did.”
The Division V playoffs continue Friday night when sixth-seeded Summerville (16-11) plays at No. 3 seed Brookside Christian (20-7) in Stockton. It is one of four quarterfinal games leading to the March 3 championship.