St. Joseph's boys basketball team doesn't typically play its first game on the Central Coast this early.
But, with all the changes Central Coast high school athletics has undergone, the Knights have switched things up a bit.
St. Joseph and Mission Prep, both members of the 13-school Central Coast Athletic Association that moved from the CIF Southern Section to the Central Section, have combined forces to host Hoops at the Coast, a two-weekend tournament that started Friday with four games at St. Joseph High School.
The Knights hosted Visalia Redwood in the nightcap and pulled away in the second half for an 80-52 win. St. Joseph typically plays tournaments throughout California and Nevada to start its season and doesn't return home until league play, though the Knights usually play in Mission Prep's Christmas Classic in San Luis Obispo.
The Knights and Royals are hosting a slew of Central Coast teams this weekend and next. Rancho Mirage, a Southern Section team, beat Nipomo 100-87 in the first game of the tournament. Visalia Mt. Whitney beat Righetti 79-63 in the second game of the tournament before Fresno Edison rallied past Mission Prep for 75-72 win.
"It's great to have some real solid out-of-the-area teams come in and it's just good to play some basketball," said St. Joseph coach and athletic director Tom Mott. "We usually don't play home games until after Christmas and league."
It took St. Joseph a while to get adjusted. The Knights led just 17-15 after the first quarter and the Rangers actually took a 19-17 lead at one point. But the Knights collected themselves and pulled away, leading 36-27 at the half and 58-44 after three. St. Joseph outscored Redwood 22-8 in the final frame, relentlessly attacking the Rangers in transition.
Kainoa Keuma, St. Joseph's senior scoring guard, led the Knights with 22 points, hitting 9-of-16 shots from the field and 4-of-4 from the free throw line. Sophomore Angel Ortiz had 19 points and Steven Vasquez added 20, knocking down the Knights' only two 3-pointers.
"We were a little bit sloppy. We struggled shooting the ball but luckily we were able to get a bunch of transition buckets and defensively we were good enough," Mott said. "We know we're going to have to play a lot better tomorrow against Edison."
The Knights rolled without the help of three players who will be counted upon later in the league season and in the post-season. Mott said Tevesi Auau was under the weather and not available to play while Janelle Rivera, a sophomore from Puerto Rico, is in the midst of a sit-out period due to the CIF transfer rule. Sophomore forward Isaiah Tell also didn't play Friday night, but should be available moving forward.
Mt. Whitney 79, Righetti 63
Christian Gonzales led the Warriors in scoring with 18 points.
Canaan Reynolds, a junior guard, got the Warriors in striking distance with an 11-point outburst in the third quarter, cutting the Pioneers' lead to 56-46 after three quarters, but Mt. Whitney pulled away.
Ethan Valencia led the Pioneers with 23 points.