It’s all about the team

Four seniors will graduate out of the Sonora Wildcats basketball team this year. Two are multi-sport athletes destined for collegiate play in other sports, while the other two are preparing for college without the structure of regular basketball.

Midas Calindas

Age: 17

Position: Point Guard

Calindas said he was accepted into the University of Nevada, Reno, but he may choose to attend Columbia College in the fall instead. He is interested in a career in medicine and will likely only play recreational basketball after college is over.

“Basketball is a lot more fun when you’re all friends on the team,” he said. “If you’re friends, you’re going to be more open with each other and you can talk about what you need to do to accomplish your goals.”

Evan Bearden

Age: 17

Position: Center

Bearden, a multi-sport athlete, was the Mother Lode League Co-MVP for the 2018 football season and has committed to play tight end with the Division 1 UC Davis Aggies next year. His size and stature made him just as formidable on the court as on the field.

“Basketball, because of the conditioning, keeps me fit and in shape,” Bearden said. “What I learned from basketball is that it really helped me with football because I’m always moving and moving my body into small places to get position on a player.”

Trey Hawkins

Age: 18

Position: Shooting Guard

Hawkins said he planned to attend the University of Nevada, Reno, in the fall where he will explore potential majors from communications to English. He said he will play basketball recreationally, but not on the university team.

“I put a lot of time into my game where I could fill the role as a starter this year,” he said. “Basketball has taught me to be more open and create more bonds with friends and even competitors. It’s about leadership and it’s about respect.”

Tyler Matyshock

Age: 18

Position: Center

Matysock, a multi-sport athlete, intends to play baseball next year at San Joaquin Delta College. Matyshock said he started at Sonora his junior year after moving from Oakhurst, but the team’s success helped him feel part of the community.

“This was the first year that I won and won something big. That was probably the coolest thing I’ve ever been a part of,” he said. “Basketball is a lot less individual, it’s taught me alot about teamwork and getting through things with your team.”

The Sonora High Wildcats basketball team has an immediately recognizable chemistry when they enter a room together.

You can hear the rapport in the jokes, the laughter, and the call and response they give to one another as they consider their historic season as champions of the CIF Sac-Joaquin Section Div. IV.

“A lot of people didn’t think we could do what we did,” said senior Trey Hawkins.

“We’re satisfied,” added junior Austin Patterson. “We accomplished so much.”

The Wildcats fell in the first round of the Northern California Regional Boys Basketball Division III Championship on Tuesday night following a 68-62 home loss to the Palo Alto Vikings. On Feb. 22, they beat Liberty Ranch High School 73-70 in Sacramento to take the section title.

For the eight juniors returning to the team next year, a bar was set. They said they plan to not only win another CIF Championship, but make a go for top prize in the regional state championship.

Darius O’Neal, 17, a junior, said it best: “We want to be able to do all the things we did this year, and more.”

Other players were more reflective in their analysis of the season and what it will take from the team to replicate it.

Patterson, a college prospect with a dream of playing at the Division 1 University of Oregon, said expectations were high, but the community would believe in them enough to do it again.

“We’re definitely going to be paying the same way we did this year. As coach said, were always going to pound the rock to win games. They should be ready for a season next year just like this year,” Patterson said.

And the team all agreed — Coach Lloyd Longeway used the phrase “pound the rock” to describe the team’s playing style all season. The Wildcats needed persistence to close out games, so none doubted Longeway would reinforce the philosophy again.

The Wildcats always keep fighting on the court until the other team breaks, he said of “pound the rock” after the CIF section win.

For returning players like Patterson stepping into a leadership role, it is important that their successful guiding philosophy be ingrained into the new additions to the team in the next year.

The Wildcats will do their best to replicate what made them successful, but will likely have to adapt with the addition of new on-court personalities and the absence of critical leaders from the current season.

“We’re going to be working just as hard in preseason to get to where we need to be to be successful,” Patterson said. “We’ll have some different assets to our team that don’t play the same, so that’s going to take some getting used to.”

Confidence is still high for the boys, with their camaraderie even further buoyed by their success.

Ben Fray and Ralphie Hansen, both 16, also called for “back to back section titles” for the Wildcats, while Spencer Copello, 17, said he was looking forward to contributing more on the court for a successful season.

Logan Sewell, 17, said he is seeking to be fully recovered in the next season from a catastrophic knee injury that tore his ACL, PCL and both meniscuses.

“Hopefully I’ll have a bigger role next year. That’ll be sick,” he said.

As long as the team moves the ball as well as they did this year, the sky is limit for the 2019-20 Wildcats, Patterson said.

“That’s how we beat teams we had no business beating. We played a lot of big city teams and they were more athletic, faster, stronger. When we play the game the right way and use all five of our guys on the court at the right time, we’ll win our games.”

Contact Giuseppe Ricapito at (209) 588-4526 or gricapito@uniondemocrat.com .

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