Most Viewed Stories
Blazing comeback for Lindhurst boys hoops
Blazers mount 17-0 run in comeback
Devin Ward has no problem being the go-to guy.
He's one of three holdovers from last year's Lindhurst High basketball team, which took the Golden Empire League, was a semifinalist in the Sac-Joaquin Section Division III playoffs and won a game in the CIF State Tournament.
As Ward surveys the court this year, he doesn't see A-D All-Area picks and former teammates Miguel French, James Trujillo and Jarrade Davis anymore. There's new faces on the bench and new coaches calling plays from the sideline.
What he did see that looked familiar on Wednesday night was fellow senior Cedrick Thomas on a back cut to the hoop where he connected with him for a thunderous alley-oop slam dunk — twice.
Ward did some scoring of his own with a game-high 24 points as the Blazers stormed back from an 11-point deficit in the fourth quarter to take down Live Oak 69-65 in Olivehurst.
Lindhurst (5-3) trailed 58-47 at the beginning of the fourth quarter before mounting a 17-0 run, capped off by Ward's deep 3-pointer.
Junior Alex Yang found his stroke during that run with two 3-pointers and his two free throws extended the Blazers' lead to 66-62 with just under 30 seconds remaining in regulation.
Ward came off the bench as a junior last season as a 3-point specialist to spell then-senior Erick Tallman. He joins Thomas and Malik Payton as the only members of last year's squad who are back in 2012.
"I'm just using the same mindset I had last year," Ward said. "I feel I can take on the challenge of being one of the captains this year.
"Our chemistry is really good right now. We know each other's strengths and weaknesses, so we just go off of that."
Lindhurst overcame a rough first half in which the Blazers only shot 33 percent from the field, yet only trailed 31-30 at halftime.
Live Oak (6-3) opened the second half on a tear, led by senior guard Romario Acosta, who scored 12 points in the third quarter. Lindhurst's switch to the full-court press in the fourth stifled Live Oak's offense.
That defense coupled with some shots finally dropping in helped power the comeback for Lindhurst.
Thomas, a three-year varsity starter and two-time All-GEL selection, is the tallest member of the team, yet he's the Blazers' point guard. That height disadvantage is something the Blazers will have to adjust to, he said.
"It's a learning experience," Thomas said. "Everyone's getting used to running the plays and playing together, but it's coming together.
"We're streaky — we're good at times and we're bad at times. We're still working on improving that."
Thomas finished with 12 points, five rebounds and five assists for the Blazers, while Payton scored 15 points. Yang ended his night with 11 points and four assists.
The players on the court aren't the only ones with big shoes to fill either.
First-year coach Rick Wise takes over for two-time A-D All-Area Coach of the Year Bob Jensen, who now serves as the school's athletic director.
Wise coached many of the Blazers as eighth graders at Yuba Gardens Intermediate. He knows last year's team casts a big shadow.
"That group was phenomenal," Wise said. "You can either try to fill (Jensen's) shoes with cement, or fill them with rafts and float down the river. He's got 20 years of experience doing it at this level and he wants nothing but the best for this program.
"He's been a real big help."
Live Oak is going through its own transition from longtime coach Buljit Dhami to Zach Wilson.
Wilson, who also serves as the Lions varsity baseball coach, likes his group of players and the fact that they're willing to learn right away.
"It's been a really easy transition for a lot of these guys," Wilson said. "We're a family. Everyone plays well together and that's hard to get sometimes."
Acosta led Live Oak with 22 points on Wednesday and Aaron Pamma scored 21 with seven assists and six rebounds. Tyler Raymond put up 15 with a good night in the post for the Lions.
This was a rematch of a semifinal game at last weekend's Ron Pritchard Invitational in Live Oak which Lindhurst won 56-47.
Live Oak will now focus its attention on the Sacramento Valley League. The Lions opened SVL play with a victory over Willows on Tuesday.
Lindhurst tips off at the Twin Cities Shootout with Yuba City tonight at 6 p.m. The Blazers will face River Valley on Friday night.
"The one thing about these kids is when they come out and play hard and they don't give up, I feel that they can probably play the best out here," Wise said. "These kids have a lot of heart."