The 2018-19 basketball season is off to a strong start for South Park, as the Burros have found early footing to lead off on a three-game winning streak in the first weekend of play.
With seven athletes returning from last year’s team (seniors TJ Peter, Collin Moore, Daigen Springer, Dillon Himes and Michael Groome, along with sophomores Elias Esparza and Leonardo Banuelos), the Burros are led by experience.
They have been joined by strong competitors; juniors Michael Kelley, Aron Susic, John Saucedo; sophomores Bobby Wallace, Michael Wishowski, Liam Goettelman, Hector Almeida, Caleb Lindberg; and freshman Lincoln Mills.
The Burro team is led by first-year head coach Bill Wishowski, first-year assistant coach Preston Springer and devoted assistant coach Steve Groome.
Although last year’s team was confined to a 7-12 overall record, the newly-appointed coaching staff devotes their time to the program with hopes of instilling a culture of commitment and competition.
Since the start of formal practice by the Colorado High School Activities Association Nov. 12, the Burros have been preparing for the season ahead and were ready for action by their first scheduled contest, where, in a season-opening non-conference game against the Denver Academy Mustangs, the Burros took advantage of the home court to control their opponent to a 58-32 final score, Nov. 29.
Jumping to an immediate lead, the Burros topped their opponent 37-15 in the first quarter with top shooters Peter and Kelley taking turns at the bucket for a game total of 19 and 17 points, respectively.
Peter was able to finish the game with two three-pointers, six two-pointers, and one of one free throw attempt, while Kelley sank eight two-pointers and one of one free throw.
While the Burros did not score in the second quarter, they remained strong on the defensive end to hold their opponent to 15 points by halftime.
Returning to the court holding a 22-point lead, the Burros continued to hold the upper hand and led the third quarter 13-8 as Himes dished the ball to various scorers to rack up four assists by game’s end.
The senior was not alone in playing team ball, as Peter tallied three assists, followed by Susic with two and Moore and Banuelos with one each.
Having capitalized on Mustang frustration, the Burros led their opponent 50-23 at the top of the fourth quarter.
While the Mustangs were able to add another nine points by the final buzzer, the Burros redirected to find eight additional points of their own and finished the game to see Himes sinking six points, Springer with five, Moore and Banuelos with four points each, Esparza took in two and Wallace brought in one.
Dominating under the basket and forbidding second shot attempts by the Mustangs, Kelley and Springer led their squad with five defensive rebounds apiece, while Moore anticipated well and finished the game with four steals, and Banuelos tallied a single block by the final whistle.
The Burros then traveled to compete in the two-day Cotopaxi Invitational. A four-team tournament of winner-take-all, the Burros worked their way through the bracket to return home as the championship team and were awarded a trophy for their efforts.
South Park kicked the tournament off in style as they squeezed by the Cotopaxi Pirates by a close 34-31 margin in the first round Nov. 30.
Up against an equally competitive and strong opponent, the Burros dug deep for a tight 8-7 lead in the first quarter.
Down-low players worked hard to find Kelley putting up eight points (three two-pointers and two of three free throws) and Springer tallying six points for the game (two two-pointers and two of two from the free throw line).
However, the Pirates were ready and shot back in the second quarter to take a 16-12 lead by halftime.
Fighting to surface, the Burros hit the boards as Springer led his team with seven total rebounds (two offensive, five defensive), followed by Kelley with three (one offensive, two defensive), but the Pirates continued to push forward and led the third quarter 9-3.
Down 25-15 at the top of the fourth quarter, the Burros kicked their defense into the highest gear to see persistent action.
Taking charge, Banuelos, Himes and Moore robbed the Pirates of successful passes and ball handling strikes to rake in three steals each, while Kelley, Peter and Banuelos guarded the bucket for a team total of four blocks.
The defense then opened the gate for a thriving offense, to see Peter ruling the basket with a game total of 15 points (two three-pointers, a two-point field goal, and seven of eight free throw attempts).
Unselfish play of a team total of nine assists also saw Esparza gaining three points and Banuelos with two. The Burros, continued attacks on their opponent allowed them to pull to a game-finishing 19 points in the final eight minutes, while holding the Pirates to a low six to end the game.
Having advanced into the championship round Dec. 1, the Burros then faced the Cripple Creek-Victor Pioneers coming off a 40-28 win over the Moffat Cowboys during the first round. South Park strength proved to be heavy-duty as the Burros secured the top of the podium with a 46-33 victory over their league opponent.
In true championship form, the two opponents battled basket-for-basket in the first half. While the Burros used a variety of inside and outside shooting to hinder the Pioneers, a well-rounded defense of 17 rebounds (led by Kelley with five), 15 steals (led by Peter with six), and a single block from Esparza allowed the Burros to gain a first-half lead of 24-22; 13-12 in the first quarter, followed by 11-12 in the second quarter.
The Burros struck hard upon returning to the court to hold the Pioneers to zero points in the third quarter, while capitalizing on the events to gain a powerful 12-point advantage by adding 10 points in the eight-minute spread.
Leading the board, Peter pounded out 16 points by game’s end (one three-point field goal, four two-pointers, and five of six from the line), followed by Kelley at the center position for 11 points (four two-pointers and three of seven from the free throw line).
Owning the upper hand, the Burros continued to push for the win and held the Pioneers to 11 points in the fourth quarter. Adding assist after assist for a team total of 12, the Burros saw additional contributions from Banuelos with nine points for the game (one three-pointer and three twos), followed by Springer with six points, and Moore and Himes wrapped up with two points each.
The all-around dictation of the court saw the Burros taking the final quarter with an additional 12 points.
The tournament ended with the Pirates finishing third with a 54-19 win over the Cowboys during the consolation round Dec. 1.
The South Park Burros will attempt to continue on their 3-0 record when facing the North Park Wildcats in a home non-conference game Dec. 8.
The Wildcats will enter Burros territory holding a 1-1 overall record from the Regular-Season Boys Basketball Tournament after defeating Golden View Classical Academy 50-16 Dec. 1, but taking their first loss to Genoa-Hugo/Karval 47-20 Nov. 30.