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It didn’t take long for the Braves to experience the CIF State Basketball playoffs under Paul Terrones.

As a first-year head boys basketball coach, the former Lompoc High football quarterback and defensive back engineered a deep postseason run in the CIF Southern Section Division 4A bracket that saw three wins and a trip to the semifinals – culminating in clinching a spot into the state tournament.

Now, Terrones and LHS have set the bar high in year No. 2 together on the hardwood.

“I think the guys who were around last year from that run saw what we can really do,” Terrones said. “And I think that’s now in the front of their mind: That we can’t take any days off or slow down in practice because they saw at the end of the season how good we can be when we put it all together.”

Lompoc (15-17 last season) not only will be looking to recapture its state form from last season, but the Braves are transitioning into a reshaped Channel League.

The Braves are heading there with longtime Los Padres League rivals Santa Ynez and Cabrillo. But awaiting them are Santa Barbara, Dos Pueblos and last season’s unbeaten league champion San Marcos.

And it was the Royals who dominated last year’s Channel League schedule; going 8-0 in league games and finishing 27-7 overall.

“The Santa Barbara schools will always be good year in and year out,” Terrones said. “Obviously Cabrillo is a traditional powerhouse. And that leaves us and Santa Ynez saying ‘How can we put ourselves on the map with those clubs?’ It’s definitely going to be a challenge. But we’re excited about the challenge and we’re up for it.”

Along with diving into a new league, LHS is also transitioning without a deep senior class from a year ago.

Six seniors have since become LHS alums – including the versatile Ruben Cortez, point guard and steal machine Jeff Ray and tall post presence Jordan Tyler, who led the team in average points per game at 13.2 according to Max Preps despite sitting out most of the season due to CIF transfer rules.  

However, some key components toward last season’s state appearance are back.

Top scorer Andrew Villa returns. So does Benecio Cayabyab, who became a key scoring presence off the bench. Also expected to be healthy is returning forward and top rebounder Ryan Morgan, who was sidelined for most of the football season due to a collarbone injury.

Morgan collected 195 total boards last season to lead the Braves according to Max Preps and is expected to be back by the season opener against Orcutt Academy on Nov. 19, Terrones said.  

He adds he likes the influx of experience on this year’s roster.

“We’re leaning on them big time to show the younger guys the ropes,” Terrones said. “It’s been a real help and we have some new guys too who we think can deliver an impact right away. We’re anxious to start playing and see where we really are.”

Villa, who averaged 12.4 points per game last season according to Max Preps to place second on the team, says this year’s team is fueled by their state appearance.

“We’re very young, but we have high expectations for them. As long as we trust the coaches and trust each other, we should be good for this year,” Villa said. “There’s a lot of talent in this new league, but we’ll be fine.”

In all, Lompoc is now aiming to either duplicate or better the success of last season’s run.

“Hopefully we can hit our stride a little earlier this year and then make some noise in league instead of just the playoffs,” Terrones said.

Lompoc High will scrimmage Arroyo Grande on Nov. 15 at the AGHS gym. The season begins on Nov. 19 against former LPL opponent Orcutt Academy for a 6:30 p.m. game.

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