Where else can you watch a future NBA lottery pick shadow a soon-to-be pitcher at San Jose State?
Only at the Holiday Hoop Classic, where the stars of tomorrow entertain standing-room-only crowds today and through the weekend.
The doors at Modesto Christian High School flew open for this one, too: Highly-touted sophomore Jalen Green and San Joaquin Memorial versus Beyer, a local champion who enjoys fighting up in weight class.
Green scored 14 of his 17 points in the fourth quarter as San Joaquin Memorial completed a wire-to-wire victory over the pesky Patriots, 73-64. Beyer coach Kyle McKim asked for this opening night assignment.
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“I just like playing against really good teams and challenging ourselves,” Beyer coach Kyle McKim said. “You don’t come to this tournament not to play against a really good team. So if we have the opportunity to play somebody really, really good at the start, I’d rather do that and get that big game in.”
While a near capacity crowd lined the court to see Green, a smooth 6-foot-6 sophomore with an NBA ceiling, his wingman stole the show.
For eight minutes, “The Goose” got loose.
Washington-bound shooting guard Jonah Geron, who wears the nickname “Goose” on the back of his warm-up, was 8 of 10 from beyond the 3-point arc, including six treys in the first quarter as the Panthers led by as many as 16 points.
The 6-foot-6 Geron burned the Patriots’ zone defense, connecting on seven of his first eight 3-point attempts.
“We try to take away the paint,” Beyer senior Ben Polack said. "If guys are going to hit shots like that, you just have to tip your hat to them."
McKim shouldered the blame. He said he waited too long to switch to a man defense. Geron had just two baskets — both 3s — after the first quarter and none in the final eight minutes with the game still in doubt.
Geron finished with 25.
“He’s a great player. We came out in zone, and I told the guys in the locker room that I’ll own that one,” McKim said. "That one was all me. I think we should have come out in man from the start. We did a much better job when we went to man. He still hit a bunch of shots, but we left them a bit too open in our zone stuff early on. That was probably a bad game plan on my part.”
Beyer trailed by 15 at the intermission but chipped away behind the play of Polack, a relentless three-sport athlete.
Polack scored 18 of his 25 points in the second half. His acrobatic finish as the shot clock expired with 1:48 left in the third quarter cut San Joaquin Memorial’s lead to 50-44.
Bound for San Jose State in the fall on a baseball scholarship, Polack’s ability to penetrate the lane kept the Patriots within 10 until the final minutes. He opened the fourth quarter with a 3-pointer from the wing and then went coast-to-coast for a layup, putting the Panthers on their heels.
“He just knows” when to take over games, McKim said of the 5-foot-11 senior. “There’s a pecking order to this kind of stuff. He’s our best scorer. I don’t really have to say it. It’s kind of like (Brian Perry) last year, they just know when we need a bucket they have to go get one. He did a great job of that tonight. He stepped up.”
Polack relished the opportunity to take the floor with two major Division I prospects, including a bona fide talent like Green, who shadowed Polack early.
Despite giving away seven inches, Polack outscored the nation’s top sophomore early and often.
“I thought we played pretty well. That guy is a future NBA player,” he said. “It was amazing. I love going against guys that are way better than me. It just brings everyone’s energy level and competitive level way up."
Kris Fore scored six consecutive points for the Patriots, who got as close as eight in the fourth. Fore finished with 14, offsetting a quiet night from the rest of the cast.
Besides Polack, no other player had more than five points for Beyer (6-6), which has lost three of its last four.
The Patriots take on Freedom in the consolation bracket on Thursday at 9 a.m.
“We’re moving in the right direction. We had a rough one on Friday, a little bit of soul searching when we lost to Gregori,” McKim said. “I think it’s going to be the best thing for us, because it made us take a hard look at ourselves and what we’re doing. We’ll turn the corner in the couple of weeks, I really believe that."