One step forward and another two backward. Goddard basketball coach Anthony Mestas felt like he had broken through. He was coming off his best season at Goddard, going undefeated in district play (6-0) and getting his team to the Elite Eight in his fifth season.
Mestas was optimistic about this season. He had Ryan Terry coming back, and rugged Hunter Beene, who had been beasting competition in summer basketball camps. Terry could not play after an injury in the early season, Beene was injured during football season and never saw the court.
With a lack of frontcourt players, Mestas had to redesign the offense. For the last two years, Mestas has been spoiled by the best guard play in 4A. Mestas’ own backcourt in Jonah Chavez in 2018 and this year, with Brandon Montanez. Montanez would do everything from bringing the ball up, to setting up his teammates, to running the pick and roll. Montanez’s favorite moves were to run a curl off the pick-and-roll and drive to the basket. He was able to single-handedly take over games.
Mestas also received stellar play from big man Anthony Panto. He became a go-to player on the low blocks down the stretch for the Rockets. He was the inside muscle Goddard hadn’t had in a while. Panto with a football background was not afraid to give or take a hard foul.
Panto was starting to get his basketball feet under him when Goddard season came to an abrupt end. He received plenty of help from one of the most exciting players in District 4-4A, Noah Reese. Reese has played varsity since the end of his freshman season.
Reese has all of the tools to be the next basketball superstar at Goddard if he chooses. He can hit the three, almost dunk and can jump out of the building. Reese has the potential to be a triple-triple machine. He can average 20 points a game, 10 rebounds and 10 assists.
Where he will grow is this summer, when he works on his game making the fundamental play consistently, until it becomes second nature to him. And then Reese can make the spectacular play to get the crowd, team and himself going. He has the skills to draw enough fouls to score half of his points through free throws.
Look for junior Jared Hicks to be the next go-to guard. In the Lovington game, Hicks hit the outside shot and was able to blow past defenders. Look for speedy guard James Torrez to get quality minutes next season. The three-ball specialist will be Gabriel Campos — he is able to get hot and carry a team.
Mestas will be guard-heavy next season with 10 guards in the mix for playing time. Look for Mestas to start four guards and Reese. At the end of the season, he brought up Jose Ramirez and Elijah Quiroz. Both guards were aggressive in looking for their shot against Lovington. With an offseason of conditioning and an uptempo offense, look for Goddard to beat teams with their conditioning.
Next season, the chief rival will be defending district champion Artesia. The Bulldogs will graduate three seniors. Lovington will graduate two seniors. Goddard will miss the fiery Taylor Ramage, who was a clog in the middle. His contributions will not go unnoticed next season.
Goddard will miss leader and captain Brandon Montanez the most. Montanez was their leader in every way. He could score the ball and defend. It is possible to see a starting backcourt of the Hick brothers, Jared and Jeremy. Jeremy Hicks will be healthy. Look for Damian Aragon to figure in for playing time as well. Most of the players know the feeling of being a district champion. This team is not far from being in the tournament again.
Look for Mestas to continue to live or die with man-to-man defense. He will try to create a team offense and play fast, and not rely on one player. For Goddard to be successful next season they will have to stay injury-free, hit their free throws and win the close games.
As of now, Goddard will not have the height or rim protectors they are accustomed to the last three years with Dalin Stanford, Derek Carrica, Beene and Panto. Also, they will be missing their defensive glue — they are still trying to find another Jonathan Carrillo.
Last season proved what a good coach Mestas is. He was able to withstand two key injuries, one before the season started and another during the season. Mestas moved players up and got them ready to play.
Goddard was 11-16 overall and 3-3 in the district. Goddard surprised many of the pundits who had picked them to finish last in the district. If not for Montanez suffering a back injury in the last minute of the first quarter at home against Lovington in the district playoffs, who knows what might have happened? That loss kept them out of the dance.
Mestas is considered one of the top coaches in 4-A basketball. He is assuredly a lock for the Hall of Fame once he decides to hang up his whistle. The thing that drives him is the desire to be the second boys’ basketball coach to win a Blue Trophy at Goddard. Goddard will have to compete against Highland, Valley, Artesia and Lovington for that to happen.
Expectations should be high next season for Goddard.
Editor’s note: In Friday’s edition, we will review and preview Roswell High boys’ basketball after Sports Editor J.T. Keith returns from vacation days.
Sports editor J.T. Keith can be reached at 575-622-7710, ext. 304, or firstname.lastname@example.org.