For a team with high expectations, a first impression should look as dazzling as this:
Forward Dylan Weltmer swatted the opening tip to Deangelo Dancer, who snapped a pass toward the rim, finding an in-flight Jaden Cobb at his apex.
The ball never touched the floor, setting the tone in the Beyer High boys basketball team’s season-opening 92-41 victory over Atwater on Thursday.
The Patriots, armed with experience and haunted by painful postseason memories, continued to play at an elevated level the rest of the way. Three players scored in double figures and the game finished with a running clock as Beyer opened the Modesto City Tournament with a record-tying performance.
Brian Perry scored a game-high 21 points, Cobb tallied 17 and Dom Dancer had 10 off the bench for the Patriots, who tied the school mark for most points scored in a game.
“We like to hit the ground running,” said Beyer coach Kyle McKim, now in his third season. “The success is a result of how hard they work in the offseason. We put in a lot of time, so we could come out and have good cohesiveness. Our defensive stuff is on-point and our offensive stuff is on-point. We were able to look good early and that’s a testament to how hard they’ve worked.”
Playing in the afternoon time slot, Beyer (1-0) and Atwater (1-2) played in front of a sparse crowd at Downey High.
No matter, the Patriots provided their own energy, surging to a 26-6 lead late in the first quarter. McKim used nine players early, turning up the tempo on the Falcons.
Dom Dancer, Ben Polack, Deangelo Dancer, Perry and Cobb – an electric quintet – pushed the ball up the floor at every chance, forcing Atwater into mistakes at both ends.
With a deep returning cast, one that stayed together during the summer Amateur Athletic Union season, the Patriots are comfortable amid the chaos of a run-and-shoot battle.
“We have a lot of athletes this year,” said the sharpshooting Perry, an all-Modesto Metro Conference guard last winter. “We have a lot of team speed. I think we play faster than we did last year. We push the ball. We always try to play fast, because we have the athletic edge on most teams. We just want to put them away early.”
So far, so good.
The Patriots attacked from the inside out, scoring 15 of their first 18 points at the rim. That success opened up shooting windows for dead-eye shooters like Perry, Polack and Deangelo Dancer.
Polack and Deangelo Dancer finished with nine points apiece.
McKim says the team has shied away from stating specific goals. Instead, the Patriots have adopted one of sport’s oldest cliches.
“The next game is the goal,” he said. “Last year, we got ahead of ourselves with goals. For us, our goal is to be the best you can be that day. I think if you get too far ahead of yourself, you’ll mess up in the present.”
Presently, Beyer appears pointed toward another Modesto City Tournament final, most likely against Clovis West and former NBA assistant coach Vance Walberg. Clovis West pummeled Enochs and Davis in its first two tournament games, outscoring the two 215-86.
Beyer welcomes the opportunity to play top-tier programs.
McKim has scheduled reigning CIF State Division III champion Manteca and will take his team back to Modesto Christian’s Holiday Hoop Classic, which begins Dec. 27.
The Patriots open the tournament against El Cerrito.
“There is enough talent here to do whatever we want,” he said, “but are we going to keep putting in the the work and everything like that on a daily basis? They can be as good as any team we’ve ever had. There’s a lot of firepower here and a lot of kids returning, and that’s where our confidence comes from.”
Under McKim, an alumnus, Beyer has quickly become one of the top public-school programs in the Stanislaus District.
The Patriots have won 80 percent of their games the last two years (45-12), rewarding their fans with home playoff games each year. That milestone is laced with pain, though. Last season, Beyer failed to get out of the first round of the Division II tournament, falling flat against Grant of Sacramento.
“We came up short. We came out flat and kind of blew it,” Perry said of an 80-72 loss. “We thought we had a better chance. We just want to win playoff games this year. We’re trying to get better every year, so we need to take another step.”
Could that step include an MMC title?
Reigning champion Modesto Christian has won a state-best 156 consecutive league games, dating back to its time in the Trans-Valley League.
However, the Crusaders appear vulnerable after suffering huge graduation losses (six players are currently playing at a two- or four-year college), a coaching change and a season-ending injury to starting sophomore forward George Murphy.
If McKim is optimistic Beyer can finally pass the parochial power, he isn’t saying. Remember, one game at a time.
“I don’t put too much emphasis on winning league titles or anything like that,” said McKim, who is 0-4 against Modesto Christian. “I want to do the best we can each day. Whatever is in our way, I want to try to win.”
Coach: Kyle McKim
2015-16: 21-7, 12-2 MMC (lost in the first round of the Sac-Joaquin Section Division II playoffs)
Key losses: PG George Dancer; G Tanner Gentry; G Ryan Frakes; F Sam Leventini.
Key returners: SG Brian Perry; G Deangelo Dancer; PG Dom Dancer; F Dylan Weltmer; G Ben Polack; G Jaden Cobb.
Key newcomers: G Avalon White; F Brandon Gray; F Kris Fore.