By Jeremy Balan
OAKLAND — Since an uncharacteristic hiccup against Marin Academy to begin the Bay Counties League West season, University High School has rolled through the league as expected, and the most recent victim was rival Lick-Wilmerding.
In their annual game at Oracle Arena in Oakland, University senior guard Noah Springwater hit a three-pointer in the first 10 seconds of play and the Red Devils never looked back.
Opening the game on a 23-0 run, University (14-5, 4-1) burst out to a 28-2 lead in the first quarter en route to a dominating 68-26 win on Friday.
“We’ve had some real highs and lows and that was clearly a high,” said University head coach Randal Bessolo. “That was the best quarter we’ve played. Our kids wanted to make a statement and came out ready to play. Winning the league the last two seasons, we often get teams’ best shots. Today Lick probably got ours.”
Springwater led all scorers with 22 points, but 14 came in the crucial first half and the free-flowing University offense fed off 12 Lick turnovers in the quarter, eight coming off University steals.
“It all started on the defensive end,” Springwater said. “Everybody came out fired up and we knew the key was our defense, and we knew that would translate into a good offense.”
Entering the fourth quarter, only Springwater was in double figures in scoring, but 11 separate University players scored points in the game and unsung sophomore guard James Burton had nine points in the final frame to finish with 11 points coming off the bench.
“We have some constants in our seniors Noah, Zio [Enriquez] and Matt [Schneider], but people don’t realize that we have five sophomores and a freshman in our rotation,” Bessolo said. “We really pride ourselves on developing players and think all 14 guys on our roster can play.”
That rotation allowed the Red Devils to extend their lead in each quarter, much to the delight of the University crowd, and the dismay of Lick’s.
The Lick offense was stymied by 24 turnovers, mostly forced by University’s press, but it also struggled shooting, connecting on just under 30 percent of their attempts from the field.
“That’s what happens when you don’t have they same talent that they have,” said Lick-Wilmerding head coach Elliot Smith. “They came out confident, saw we were young and inexperienced, and just jumped on us. They weren’t going to give in, they were going to keep their best guys in the whole game and press the whole game. They wanted to beat us by 100.”
The Red Devils dominated throughout, but may have also caught the Tigers in a bit of a rut. Lick (8-10, 0-3) has lost its last five games (including its first three in BCL West play), after starting the season 8-5, and the margin in those losses has averaged nearly 18 points per game. In the first meeting between the two teams this season in early December, University won 77-62.
“This squad is young and is learning, but sometimes you have to learn the hard way,” Smith said. “Our pride was hurt today, but we’ll play them again at home [on Feb. 9]. We were just on the wrong end of it today.”
Noah Springwater – 22
James Burton – 11
Zio Enriquez – 9
Matt Schneider – 8
Will Carroll – 5
Danny Baldocchi – 6
Benjamin Faustine -5
Benjamin Schneider – 5
Tomas Fuentes-Afflick – 4
Three players tied with 2 points