Boys Basketball: Balboa’s frontcourt the difference in win over San Rafael

Balboa senior guard DiJon Jones drives past a San Rafael defender on Tuesday at Balboa High School. (Photo by Eric Luis)

By Jeremy Balan

At first glance, the Balboa High School boys basketball team appears to be entirely composed of guards.

The Bucs don’t have a starter above 6 feet tall, but it was the undersized, yet athletic Balboa forwards that came up with the big plays in a 55-53 nonleague win over visiting San Rafael on Tuesday.

Balboa forwards John Bender and Lamar Anderson, both standing at 5-foot-11, each scored in double digits and held 6-foot-6 San Rafael senior center Nick Sterling to just three points in the second half.

Balboa senior forward John Bender goes up for a layup against San Rafael on Tuesday at Balboa High School. (Photo by Eric Luis)

“We’ve run into some tall teams, but we have great chemistry this year,” Bender said. “We just keep practicing hard and put the effort out on the court.”

The Bucs’ active 2-3 zone defense forced 20 San Rafael turnovers and Balboa outrebounded the larger Bulldogs (2-3).

“We hadn’t seen the zone yet, but we didn’t play with the urgency to win as an inexperienced team,” said San Rafael head coach Tony Butler. “We got good looks against the zone and if we get to 50 points, we should win. We got dominated in the paint by a smaller team.”

As successful as Bender and Anderson were scoring on midrange jump shots and second-chance layups, when San Rafael tied the game at 53-53 on two free throws with 21 seconds remaining, the Bucs (4-0) went to senior leader Jonathan Burnoski, who finished with 13 points.

Burnoski, a sharpshooting 5-foot-9 guard, drove to the basket, absorbed contact in the air and hit a contested layup with 7 seconds remaining to put the Bucs up. San Rafael guard Sho Bramah took a long 3-point shot as time wound down, but the potential game-winner bounced off the rim and Anderson skied for the rebound to seal the victory.

“I’m comfortable with my [guards] creating and my [forwards] going to the boards,” said Balboa head coach Val Cubales. “We have three guys who are extremely athletic, who can all dunk the ball and really get up there. They can’t just rely on that, though. They still have to block to get rebounds and they’re doing that. They have amazing vertical ability.”

The Bucs started slow, though, and shot just over 15 percent from the field in the first quarter and trailed 10-5. Balboa picked up the pace in the middle quarters, shooting over 54 percent to take a 44-42 lead heading into the fourth.

Still unbeaten, the Bucs have been the most surprising team in the early season after a 8-22 overall record last season. Balboa didn’t get its fourth win until late January last season.

“We’ve been doing the same thing for the last four games and it’s been working for us,” Cubales said. “I only have two returning players and the rest is a new cast. The egos have dropped and things are working for now.”

Scoring Leaders

Jonathan Burnoski — 13
John Bender — 13
Lamar Anderson — 11
Chad Untalan — 8
Two players tied with 6 points

San Rafael
Michael Roland — 17
Nick Sterling — 11
Griffon English — 6
Liam Maley — 6
Sho Bramah — 4

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  1. GCJ 01 says:

    Bal may be the real deal this year. I can’t wait until they play Mission! Loving the pink shoes by Bender!

    • Anonymous says:

      Win over San Rafael was nice. Talmapais on the road and then Half Moon Bay in the Cardinal Classic opener will reveal more about their talent. They deserve to be in the top 10. Don’t quite think they are at the Mission or Lincoln level yet but they are there with Lowell and Washington in the next tier.

    • Feel The Pain says:

      Win over San Rafael was nice. I hope they can sustain that momentum heading on the road at Tamalpais and then the opener in the Cardinal Classic against Half Moon Bay. I think we will have a better idea where the Bucs stand after this week. They definitely deserve to be in the SF top 10. I wouldn’t say they are there with Mission and Lincoln just yet, but they are definitely on the next tier with Lowell and Washington. Time will tell!

    • GCJ 01 says:

      The good thing is that Bal is in Lincoln and Missions division so they play them twice. As the both of you have said, we will see how well they do in their upcoming games. I strongly belive they can POSSIBLY beat Lincoln. I’m not too sure about Mission, but if they do, I wouldn’t be shocked.

  2. WCAL Fan says:

    Go job Bucs. Keep it going strong. – Alum

  3. Anonymous says:

    The point guard for Balboa finished with 9 assists did a great job getting the big men the ball

  4. MCAL Most Wanted says:

    MCAL teams have to watch out for San Rafael in the near future. Liam Maley is an up-and-coming player, and a future star of MCAL. He has good height and will continue to grow. From what I hear he has added some bounce to his game and should be a real rim rattler by the time he is an upper classmen.

  5. In the crowds says:

    Chad Untalan from Balboa is the TRUTH. YAF

  6. Real Talk says:

    I’m not gonna lie, Liam Maley is a talented basketball player, a very talented one at that. In fact, I could argue that he is the most talented basketball player in MCAL, maybe that MCAL’s has ever seen. But lets be honest. He’s got a December Birthday, he’s already 16 and by the time he is a senior he is going to be washed up, far past his prime. By the time your 18, playing in such an elite league like the Marin County Athletic League, there is just no way to keep up. Knees and back start to give up. Getting up and down the court becomes a struggle. As I said, great player, great kid, but just is doomed. It’s a shame too, because I think he had the what it took

  7. yey says:

    john bender and dijon jones were not getting any play time at marshall so changed school. and look at them now…maybe marshall needs a new coaching staff…

    • airball says:

      In all fairness, Bender and Jones were not on the Marshall basketball team last year. Therefore your statement “not getting any play time at Marshall” is not 100% accurate. Regardless, its great to see these two young men playing and contributing to the early season success that Balboa is experiencing!

  8. unknown says:


  9. Anonymous says:

    chad untalan can really pass that ball

  10. unknown says:

    dijon been doing it since jv year at marshall yall just now finding out

  11. Laurel says:

    @Real Talk

    I completely agree. At 18, with all the extra effort and time you need to put in just to be able to keep yourself on the court, you have to start to question if its worth it or not. And Ive seen this Maley kid, and let me say hes got real talent, drive and committment. Im a huge fan. But folks, catch him while you can, because senior year, when you expect him to try to just take over one of the better leagues around, MCAL, it just wont happen. Way past his prime. Its tough to see another blossimming star’s career ruined with a bum knee and what not, but thats just the way of the world I guess

  12. Anonymous says:

    Burnoski is the truth player of the year crowd is yelling m.v.p

  13. Anonymous says:

    Liam Maley is a stud athlete. Maley is a heavy favorite to become the MCAL break out player of the year. With the help of point guard Nick Andress I believe this is achievable. Maley has great outside game and can play above the rim. He is a rare talent at the age of 16. Look for him to get d1 offers in the near future. They key to Maley’s success is work ethic. We know he has the talent but if he puts the work in watch out MCALS there is a new Big Man On Campus!!!

  14. Ball says:

    In such a premiere league, such as the Marin County Athletic League, it is not a rarity to see great players. I’ve seen some very good players in my time : Stuart Wesonga, Alex Pribble, Morgan Sabia, Reid Kamler, Michael Turner are just a few names that come off the top of the head. These are all great basketball players, and I’m taking nothing away from them, but Liam Maley is in a completely different league. His combination of athleticism, shiftiness, and great shooting , combined with a knack to get to the rim is what separates him from all the players listed above. He is a rare breed, the complete package, one of the greatest basketball players I’ve ever seen. I see great things in his future.

  15. Anonymous says:

    Sho Bramah is a standout, explosive guard, who is impossible to stay in front of. 2013 top recruit

  16. AAA says:


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