With two league games already in the books, the local boys basketball teams are taking a break from conference play, but not from the court.
All the Foothill League teams are playing in tournaments over winter break, looking to better prepare themselves for the stretch run in conference play.
Through the early part of the season, the following storylines have started to develop and are worth keeping an eye on.
Underclassmen making big impact
While every Foothill League team has senior and junior leaders, there are a handful of underclassmen who are making an immediate impact for their teams.
Freshman Nathan Perez is Saugus’ second-leading scorer and has been a reliable shooter all season. His ability to stretch the floor has opened up the middle for Saugus’ bigs to operate with more freedom.
Hart has a trio of sophomores who are all a big part of the team’s rotation. Isaac Deedon starts for the Indians and is a key contributor, while Dillon Barrientos and Jaden Penberthy add firepower off the bench.
Golden Valley has a pair of sophomore big men, Josiah Gatewood and Braxton Williams, who provide the Grizzlies with strength and athleticism down low. Williams can hit the mid-range jumper with consistency and Gatewood seems to have a nose for the ball, pulling down rebounds on both ends of the floor.
Sophomore center Corwin Daugharty missed the beginning of the season for Canyon due to injury, but head coach Sean DeLong expects him to make an immediate impact as soon as he returns to action.
Valencia has sizable advantage
The Vikings boast a starting lineup that towers over their competition. Richard Kawakami is a 6-foot-4 point guard who is bigger than most forwards and centers on other teams. Forwards Josh Assiff, 6-foot-8, and Jayden Trower, 6-foot-7, clog the paint and make it difficult for opposing teams down low.
The Vikings also have two 6-foot-5 centers off the bench, making Valencia the tallest team in the Foothill League.
The role of the big man
While the game seems to be gravitating to a more perimeter style of play, the big men in the Foothill League are still key to any success a team is hoping to have.
Each team uses a traditional center who can bang on the block and crowd the paint, making it difficult for opposing guards to drive the lane.
While all six teams try to play quick and utilize the fastbreak, they all have the ability to slow it down and play a more half court style because they have talented centers.
Tight race to the top
While Hart ran away with the league title last year, this season is shaping up to be much closer if early results are any indication.
Valencia is currently the league leader, going 2-0 in its first conference games. Golden Valley is the lone team without a league win, having going 0-2 in its two conference games. The other four teams all currently sit at 1-1 in league.
Valencia might be the early favorite, but West Ranch, Saugus and Hart will all be vying for the top spot. Canyon will also be in the mix, having already accomplished a feat this season that it hadn’t all of last year: win a league game.