Among those who remembered the last Eisenhower boys basketball victory — and there may not have been many Friday night in Ike’s new gym — were Andy Soto and Austin Backes.
“Eastmont up there, my freshman year,” said Backes, now a Cadets junior. “I probably remember more about it than Andy because I didn’t play much. I spent most of the game watching.”
Both will remember this one, probably for the rest of their lives.
With Soto scoring 20 points and grabbing seven rebounds in his first game this season and Backes adding 17 points, Ike’s 40-game losing streak came to a screaching halt with a rousing 57-39 CBBN victory over Sunnyside.
Make that a screaming halt, since Cadets fans stormed the court afterward and gleefully chanted, “EIS-en-HOW-er ... EIS-en-HOW-er!”
Said first-year coach Will Gaethle when approached afterward by a reporter, “Don’t make me cry.”
The formula for this win was active and diligent defense, against which the Grizzlies (0-3 CBBN, 0-6 overall) shot only 30 percent (14 for 46) and committed 24 turnovers, and opportunistic offense that gained momentum as the game progressed.
Especially for Soto, a 6-foot-4 senior who had been ineligible for Ike’s first four games. He made 8 of 11 field goal attempts and posted 13 of his points as the Cadets (1-2, 1-4) dominated the second half.
As Gaethle put it, “He came out swinging.”
“Yeah,” said Soto, “I couldn’t wait to get out there and get the game going. I was so excited I was shaking on the bench before we started.”
He scored six points as Eisenhower broke open a close game with a 22-8 third quarter, one capped by Backes’ buzzer-beating 3-pointer that gave the hosts a 43-26 lead.
Sunnyside cut it to 45-35 on Joel Ortega’s long ball with 6:00 to play, but Ike staged a 7-0 burst to reassume command and closed on a 12-4 run.
“The thing I really liked,” Gaethle said, “was how hard the kids played and how nobody cared who got the credit or the points. We were very unselfish.”
To be sure, all of Ike’s starters had a hand in this victory.
Point guard Keith McLin ran the offense and distributed the ball, Najea Harris defended well inside and Colton Hinman, one of the team’s best scorers, played solidly despite an injured thumb on his shooting hand and was effective on the point of Ike’s 1-2-2 zone.
None of the Grizzlies, meanwhile, developed a shooting rhythm, and none scored more than the eight points tallied by Ortega, Leo Palacios and Cody Fernandez.
“I didn’t look at the scoreboard the whole game,” said Soto. “I tried to play the whole time like it was zero-zero. But a game like this will bring us together. We will be on point.”
Said Backes, who missed all of last season with a back injury, “The important thing is that we keep playing like we did tonight and worry only about the things we can control, like playing hard.
“I tried not to look at the scoreboard, either. But once we got to the last minute, I couldn’t help celebrating.”
SUNNYSIDE — Sanchez 3, Palacios 8, Fernandez 8, Ortega 8, Garza 5, Es. Salmeron 7, Pike 0, Voorhies 0, Sotelo 0, Romero 0, En. Salmeron 0. Totals 14-46 6-9 39.
EISENHOWER — Harris 6, McLin 4, Hinman 4, Austin Backes 17, Andy Soto 20, Gomez 2, Stebbins 2, Moya 2, Adams 0, Cooper 0, Olivera 0. Totals 21-42 15-22 57.
Sunnyside 11 7 8 13 — 39
Eisenhower 12 9 22 14 — 57
Shooting percentages — FG: Sun .304, Ike .500; FT: Sun .557, Ike .681. 3-point goals — Palacios 1, Fernandez 1, Ortega 1. Fouled out — None. Rebounds — Sun 33 (Garza 6); Ike 21 (Soto 7). Turnovers — Sun 24, Ike 15.