By Jeremy Balan
University senior guards Noah Springwater and Zio Enriquez have been the catalysts for the Red Devils’ offense all season, and Bay Counties League West foes have come to realize that you may be able to stop one, but you won’t stop both.
Taking control of the game at separate times, the pair combined for 41 points to lead University to an impressive 77-50 win over visiting Marin Academy on Friday.
“Good teams have multiple threats and we have a tremendous one-two punch in Noah and Zio,” said University head coach Randal Bessolo. “That makes the game a lot easier.”
Springwater ruled early, blending solid early outside shooting with forceful drives into the paint, which led to 16 first-half points and a 36-22 University lead at the half.
Springwater would finish with a game-high 25 points, but when he hit a cold shooting streak in the second half and ran into foul trouble, Enriquez picked up the slack.
After scoring just two points on 0-of-6 shooting in the first half, Enriquez responded with 14 of his 16 total points in the second, as the Red Devils extended their lead in each quarter.
“I tried to force it a little bit in the first half. Sometimes, when you try to do more, you get less,” Enriquez said. “Noah and I have good chemistry on the court, so when we notice one of us is struggling, we pick each other up.”
The win puts the Red Devils (16-5, 5-1) into a first-place tie with the Wildcats (15-6, 5-1), and it redeems a 60-57 loss to Marin Academy in their BCL West opener on Jan. 11. Since the loss, University has won five consecutive league games by an average of 34.2 points.
“We haven’t accomplished anything yet,” said University head coach Randal Bessolo. “We lost there last time and they showed they are a very good team, but we owed them one.”
Marin Academy handled University’s press with relative ease, but struggled against their half-court defense, committing 24 turnovers.
The turnovers stalled the Marin Academy attack throughout, but shooting struggles also plagued it, especially from three-point range, where the Wildcats connected on 3-of-19 attempts.
“I don’t think we came ready to play. We’re as good as they are, we just had a bad night,” said Marin Academy head coach Michael Coffino. “We committed a lot of unforced turnovers and just couldn’t shoot. Part of that was good defense, but most of it was that we just couldn’t hit shots we normally drain.”
The offensive struggles overshadowed a tremendous effort by Marin Academy senior forward Dashon Harris. Harris had a team-high 20 points and had a dominant night on the boards with 18 rebounds, nine coming on the offensive end.
Fellow senior Eric Johanson had 16 points and junior Luck Winfield added nine, but the rest of the Wildcats combined for just five total points.
“We were relying too much on [Harris],” Coffino said. “He scored 20, which happens with regularity, but we’re actually a pretty balanced team offensively, we just weren’t tonight.”
Coffino also took issue with the game’s environment. University’s small gym was packed for the game, with fans overflowing from the stands having to stand along the already cramped baselines.
“It’s a tough place to play, and it’s not a suitable place to have a basketball game,” Coffino said. “It’s too hot in there, that’s not good for anybody, and it’s really loud. It has an impact.”
He took issue with the University’s play on the court as well, and was not shy voicing his displeasure with the Red Devils’ coaching staff.
“I don’t have a lot of respect for their coach, and you can quote me on that,” Coffino said. “Nobody really likes him, because he presses teams and tries to run up the score, and I don’t see the point. It’s an AAU mentality, trying to punish people and humiliate them, and I don’t subscribe to that.”
The Red Devils did apply a full-court press for the entirety of the game, but according to Bessolo, that is the only defense they run, and even in blowouts, he uses the time for lightly-used reserves to get experience in the system.
The situation came to a head after the handshake between the two teams, when both coaching staffs exchanged heated words.
“We view Marin Academy as a very good team and part of our gameplan is to press the whole game,” Bessolo said. “And we executed our gameplan. I like Michael, he’s a very good coach, but it’s too bad he feels the way he does.”
Bessolo also threw a verbal jab of his own, maybe signaling the the ongoing rivalry between the two teams is nowhere near its peak.
“It’s likely we’re going to play them again [in the postseason] and that’s the one that’s going to matter,” Bessolo said. “On the message boards, some of the MA [people] were saying their first win was a dominant win, and frankly this is a better example of a dominating win. Last year when we won 79-41 in the playoffs, that was a better example of a dominating win.”
Noah Springwater – 25
Zio Enriquez – 16
Matt Schneider – 10
Will Carroll – 8
David Medoff – 5
Dashon Harris – 20
Eric Johanson – 16
Luke Winfield – 9
Sommer Stein – 3
Miles McCreary – 2