Senior Justin Ayubi ...

Senior Justin Ayubi puts up a jump shot during Friday night’s win over University City.

League play is always more intense. It makes players and athletes turn up the dial and focus a little more. It just feels more personal. 

With a 14-5 record heading into league play, the Coronado High School boy’s basketball team would need that extra focus and intensity as they would undoubtedly be looked upon as the top dog at the start of City-Eastern League play. 

The first team to get a crack at the Islanders in league would be the University City Centurions, who much like the Islanders, were red hot to start the 2022-2023 season as they boasted a 10-4 record coming into last Friday’s bout. 

While many of the recent Islander basketball games have featured some high-scoring totals, the same could not be said about Friday’s game, as both teams set the defensive tone early. 

For Coronado, their defense would continue to excel at being able to generate steals as in the first quarter Loxly Johnson, Mateo Villanueva, and Ben Lee, who would tally the first points of the game off a stolen inbound pass, would all come away with turnovers that would lead to early buckets. As a team, the Islanders would have six steals in the first quarter. As such, the Islanders would roll out to an early 18-3 lead to start the game, just how they would want to start the league play.

Coronado would continue to expand their lead in the second quarter thanks to solid shooting from Sam Dulin and Nolan Reuter, who would each record three-pointers in the second quarter. 

Another key reason for the Islander’s first-half success has to be attributed to their keen passing and unselfishness. Namely from their guards Ben Lee and Tekur Velazquez, who in the first half, both routinely passed up driving lay-ups in favor of kicking the ball out to open shooters along the wing or beyond the three-point line. 

However, for all the first-half success the Islanders had on Friday, you knew that University City was not going away without a fight. And in the third quarter, a once 15-point lead had been taken all the way down to single digits heading into the fourth. 

In fact, the game got so tight that with just over a minute and a half to play in the fourth, the Centurions had closed the lead to four points as they trailed Coronado just 44-40. 

But despite the sizable blown lead, the Islanders did not waver or blink. It would yet again be their defense and ability on the fast break that would seal the game. 

With UC in possession with just 50 seconds to play, Ben Lee would come away with yet another steal. While going to the hoop, he would dish to a trailing Reuter, who would lay it in to make it a 46-40 game. 

The Centurions would get within three, but on their final shot attempt to win the game, the Islander defense would again tighten and force a very low percentage shot that would miss. Handing the Islanders the 46-43 victory and moving them to 1-0 in league play. 

With their record now at 15-5 and 1-0 in league, the Islanders will look to keep things rolling as they return to the hardwood on Tuesday, January 10, versus Mira Mesa High School, and then play again on Saturday January 14 against Helix High School.

VOL. 113, NO. 2 - Jan. 11, 2023

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