Santa Maria's boys basketball team made it to the playoffs last year, and the Saints have a lot of players back as they will try to make another run into the postseason.
"I have nine seniors," fourth-year Santa Maria coach Dave Yamate said. Those nine include point guard Blake Truhitte and guard Jonathan Ramos who just wrapped up their football careers in the Saints' CIF Southern Section Division 12 championship game against Big Bear on Saturday.
Santa Maria finished fourth in the Los Padres League last year, good enough to get the last automatic playoff bid from the league.
The Saints won their first-round game and went out in the second round.
Santa Maria again opened its season at the Sierra-Pacific Tournament in Hanford. The Saints finished second there last year and lost to Tulare's Mission Oak 70-65 in the championship game this year, falling on Saturday, playing without Truhitte and Ramos, who lost to Big Bear 37-23 in the football championship game. Ramos missed most of the second half of that game with an injured shoulder.
"I've had a lot of these guys with me since I've been here," said Yamate.
"We had a good summer. We played about 25 games. One of our guards, Thomas Segel, broke his wrist. It was good to get him back," during preseason workouts.
Santa Maria averaged 69 points a game last year, and more than half the Saints' points came via the 3-point shot.
The Saints' top two 3-point shooters from last year, senior Joey Nevarez and Truhitte, are back and, "We're going to shoot the '3' a lot again this year," said Yamate.
Nevarez and Truhitte averaged 17 and 15 points a game for the Saints respectively last season. Santa Maria lost its third-leading scorer from that team, Isiah Kurgan, to graduation. Kurgan averaged 10 points a game.
Besides Nevarez, Ramos and Truhitte, Santa Maria's other seniors are Mike Kurgan, Kobe Medina, Saul Santiago, Clark Kringel and DeJoure Burress.
Burress came up from the junior varsity last year, and the 6-foot-7 forward-center was the varsity squad's leading rebounder at eight a game.
Bouress and the 6-foot-3 Ramos are the only Saints who are listed as being taller than 6-1. Burress is the only Santa Maria player who is not listed as at least a part-time guard.
That kind of smallish overall height is typical for Santa Maria. So is the sight of Yamate constantly subbing during a game as his team takes quick breaks from playing its fast-paced brand of ball on both ends.
Playing quickly will again be a Santa Maria staple, said Yamate. "We're going to press all over the floor on defense, play up-tempo on offense and look to shoot a lot of 3s."
Santa Maria won its own tournament last year and the Saints will again host the Santa Maria Holiday Tourney, this time Dec. 26-29.