The last thing Goddard boys basketball coach Anthony Mestas wanted to see was his team get into foul trouble on this road trip. It will turn out to be a beneficial thing later in the season and the most important thing on Thursday night was his team found a way, which is becoming the motto this season. The Rockets found a way to win.
With big men Derek Carrica and Hunter Beene both on the bench with foul trouble, Mestas went to a matchup zone and weathered the storm until they could put the big fellas back in. As Albuquerque Academy made a run and was about to take the lead, junior guard Austin Ramey hit his only shot from the three-point line to put a dagger in the Chargers to win their opening game Thursday night in the Joe Armijo Invitational, 52-44, as the Rockets start the season 4-1.
“This is a win,” Mestas said. “We came on the road and played them and played tough, it means a lot. We got in foul trouble but the kids hung together. We overcame adversity.”
Mestas is happy with the trips as it gives his team a chance to bond and play together. The reason he didn’t want to see his team get into foul trouble is he only brought eight players and the other players are playing junior varsity to gain experience in order to help the varsity later in the season and another player is out with an injury.
This year’s team has had a change in attitude, hustle and effort. They are starting to hit their free throws. In upcoming games, Goddard will have to do a better job than they did in this game as they went 11-of-25 from the charity strip, but made enough down the stretch to win the game.
The Rockets were down 23-20 at halftime when Mestas made an adjustment and started pounding the ball inside to Beene and Carrica, which ended up getting the Chargers in foul trouble. More importantly, they made their free throws when they needed to, which turned the game around for them.
“I love Hunter Beene,” Mestas said. “His play reminds me of Dennis Rodman — he has the perfect body to hustle and play great defense. He bangs for rebounds. He sets solid screens for us and he gives us extra shots with his hustle on the boards. He knows his role for us — he’s a physical presence for us. When teams double Carrica, he gets some looks at the basket, too.”
It has been a team effort — big man Derek Carrica scored a team-high 15 points. Carrica is making the most of his senior campaign. According to Mestas, he has hit the weights this offseason and worked on his footwork. Carrica’s value cannot be explained in just points, as the offense runs through him. Mestas thinks Carrica is a cerebral player in the way he thinks the game and can see a step ahead of what is happening on the floor. Often it is the results of an assist or layup for Goddard.
“Derek has worked hard in the offseason for us,” Mestas said. “He’s a vocal leader and that’s what we needed this year. He will set our defense and the offense runs through him as well. He is a good passing big man with a good outside shot and he has improved his footwork. He’s having a good senior year.”
Goddard’s “Little General” Jonah Chavez runs the offense and is rounding into basketball shape. Chavez scored 12 points in the game and set up his teammates with an assist as Xavier Garcia scored nine points and has been playing well since the start of the season. Shooting guard Jon Carrillo added seven points and played well defensively.
“I can’t say enough about Chavez,” Mestas said. “He’s playing consistent and handling the ball well. With Chavez playing football, it has made him stronger in that contact doesn’t faze him. Before, guards used to hand check him, but because of football, the contact doesn’t bother him. Now he doesn’t let players ride him.”
Mestas has high praise for Xavier Garcia with his handling of the ball and his overall play this season. Garcia has the skill and ability when he gets hot to take over a game on both ends of the floor with his jumping ability to block a shot or float to the basket on the offensive end of the floor.
“Xavier has been very consistent on both ends of the floor,” Mestas said. “I like the effort I’m getting from him.”
Goddard will play Manzano today — with eight players available to them, Goddard will have their work cut out for themselves. In this game, they cannot get into foul trouble. Manzano is an up-and-down-the-floor team and they have more depth than the Rockets, according to Mestas.
“Tonight this game will come down to depth,” Mestas said. “I think we have better guards than they do. Our bigs have to neutralize their bigs. They have a team that is long, big and athletic. We cannot get into foul trouble.”
Goddard plays Manzano at 6:30 p.m. today in the Joe Armijo Invitational.