The Lompoc High boys basketball team is now facing a tall order – literally.
Now standing in the way of these Braves is a Riverside Carnegie Schools team loaded on height, with eight of the Carnegie players standing above 6-foot-5 and the tallest player checking in at 6-foot-11.
“They’re definitely going to be bigger than who we’ve played against,” LHS head coach Paul Terrones says.
Lompoc – fresh off of beating two teams ranked in the CIF Division 4A realm in San Bernardino Aquinas and Desert Hot Springs – will now aim to topple the skyscrapers from the Inland Empire, as the Braves and Wolverines – once known as Riverside Christian – will converge inside the Bryan Ayer Court floor on Friday at 7 p.m.
According to the Riverside Press-Enterprise, the Carnegie school system took control of the private school prior to the last school year, dropping the Riverside Christian name while also adopting a new moniker. Along with height, the Wolverines are also comprised of international players.
While most of the Braves will be looking up to the taller Wolverines at Paisola Pavilion, Terrones insists that his group won’t feel diminutive compared to Carnegie.
“I don’t think we’re small. And usually when teams are bigger, they’re not as fast. So we’re going to try to use our speed to our advantage,” Terrones said.
Lompoc already has its own tower on the floor: 6-foot-7 Jordan Tyler, who has emerged as a shot-blocking post force for the Braves. Through 14 games, Tyler is tops in points per game (13.4) and rebounds per game (8.6) according to MaxPreps. And the last time Tyler was inside his home court, his powerful right hand sent a shot flying backwards with nearly 10 seconds left against Aquinas, as his key block helped send the Braves to the quarterfinals.
But while Tyler’s huge defensive play helped seal that win, Ryan Morgan said he believes the next victory over Desert Hot Springs saw multiple impact players.
“Everything was going good. Everyone was making their shots and everyone was working together as a team,” said Morgan, who scored 17 points down in Coachella Valley that night, which was second on the Braves next to Andrew Villa’s 21 points.
Added key reserve Benicio Cayabyab, who scored 12 points off the bench: “I think everybody wasn’t doing their own thing. They were doing things right. Just all around great teamwork.”
And while there are students and city residents raving about the run the Braves are having, Terrones says his guys have taken on a next-day-up approach.
“That’s been kind of our motto all year. After a tough loss, it was always ‘Tomorrow is a new day.’ And we moved forward to get back to work. And after wins, I practically say the same thing: ‘Tomorrow is a new day. It’s time to get back to work,’” Terrones said. “I think we’ve moved on and are ready for the next challenge.”
As it is, Morgan says his older sister Danielle has spent the last two days with the LHS Associated Student Body (ASB) on finding a way to energize the home crowd through the LHS Blue Crew student section.
“It’s crazy. We’re planning on having everyone meet inside the cafeteria, then bring them all in at the same time just to get the gym riled up,” Morgan said.
The winning team will face the winner of Friday's Rolling Hills Prep and Covina battle on March 2 with the section’s D4A title on the line.