By GERARDO RECINOS
The Bulldogs are banged up right now. They’re missing three players to injuries, they lost a player who left the team, and they’re heading into a stretch where they’ll play six games in two weeks before league play.
It’s going to get interesting.
Their 70-52 loss to the St. Mary’s-Albany Panthers on Tuesday night was a back and forth affair until the visitors pulled away in the fourth quarter.
The Bulldogs will be missing Zac Runyon and Jackson Norried for at least the final weeks of preseason play. Senior guard Josh Ramirez is also still nursing a nagging injury that has slowed his play from what Bulldog supporters saw last season.
“You just got to try and monitor (minutes),” head coach Anthony Ertola said of his squad rotation. “We need to find the right combinations of guys who can come off the bench and come in and step up. Tonight our bench struggled.”
The bench struggled on Tuesday, but one guy who came off the bench who did not struggle was senior Tyler Peters. The forward had 19 points on the evening to lead Bulldog scorers.
Peters, more known for his skills on the diamond than the court, played a big role in reversing the tide for the Alhambra in the paint. He served as a presence on the offensive glass and aided the Bulldogs with big minutes and a big scoring output.
“Tyler’s a great athlete, and the kid has got a lot of heart,” said Ertola. “Right now he is the heart and soul of this team.”
That being said it’s no surprise Peters’ first points of the night launched a 12-2 Bulldog run that overturned an early Panther lead in the first quarter. Defensively in the first quarter, the Bulldogs also forced three shot clock violations from the Panthers.
That wouldn’t be the only big run of the first half.
The killer for Alhambra was a 13-0 run that also ended a quarter for the team ahead at the time. Senior forward Josh Allen pulled down an offensive rebound and a steal which both led to points for St. Mary’s, while fellow senior Jonathan Rice also scored four points – his come off of two Bulldog turnovers.
Second chance points doomed the Bulldogs in the second half. Seemingly every contested rebound went the way of the visitors, and even more frustrating was the Bulldogs’ lack of aggression when they were in a dominant position to grab a rebound.
On more than one occasion Ertola urged his players to grab the ball rather than try to shield it out of bounds.
Every time the Bulldogs started to chip away at a St. Mary’s lead, the Panthers would respond with a run of their own.
“I’ve got to do a better job of making some adjustments,” Ertola said. “St. Mary’s is very lethal, and they rely on making runs like that.
“Our job is to minimize those runs so they don’t hurt us, and unfortunately we just didn’t do it quite enough.”
The Bulldogs’ second half of their preseason includes three games in the final week of the year as part of the Atascadero Holiday Tournament in San Luis Obispo, before league play starts up in January.
“December is a grind,” Ertola said. “You just try to find a way to push through. You basically beg the guys to find a way to rest and work through it.”