There hasn’t been a lot of success around the Downey boys basketball program in recent memory.
In the last three years, the Knights have won 19 games.
That may be changing under first-year head coach Stephen Garrett.
With a 69-60 win over Buhach Colony (8-7) on Friday in the 2018 Oakdale Rotary Classic championship, the Knights (10-5) won their 10th game of the season, the most by a Downey team since 2011-12 when it won 17 and made the playoffs.
“We had 10 juniors on the team last year,” Garrett said. “I took the varsity position (was an assistant last year) because the fact that we were bringing back 10 players. They were hungry and they wanted it and they are working to keep those pieces together.”
One piece of the puzzle for the Knights recently has been the team’s play in the third quarter.
In their semifinal win over Pitman on Thursday, the Knights outscored the Pride 26-11.
On Friday, Downey trailed 46-45 with four minutes remaining in the quarter before Garrett took a timeout.
“I just always try to tell them to try and control the game,” he said. “We were getting into some rushed shots. I just said we have to take control.”
Led by senior center Malachi Butler, the Knights went on a 17-0 run after the timeout and the Thunder didn’t score until 6:21 left in the fourth on a layup by senior forward Brandon Lyons.
With 6-foot-4 Thunder junior forward Gerald Braxton in foul trouble, the 6-foot-8 Butler had no problem dominating in the paint and grabbing offensive rebounds. Butler had a game-high 20 points, 12 of which game in the second half and also grabbed 13 rebounds.
“I just wanted to come out and play and ball,” Butler said. “Everybody has been coming together and we just have different parts and we all play well together.”
Knights senior guard Anderson Grover had 15 points including a deep 3-pointer at the halftime buzzer that hit nothing but net and junior guard Lawrence Harris added 12.
“Anderson and Malachi, they play with heart and determination,” Garrett said. “He (Butler) is a baller and he’s got the size and physical tools. Anderson just has the heart and he goes hard (effort) all the time.”
Grover was named the Most Valuable Player of the tournament while Butler made first-team all-tournament.
Senior Anoop Nagra and Braxton both had 16 points for the Thunder, who lost for the second time to the Knights this year. Downey beat Buhach Colony 87-61 on Nov. 27.
With a little less than two weeks before opening Central California Athletic League play against Turlock on Jan. 9, Butler said the team is ready for the challenge of the tough league.
“We are just building and trying to get ready for league,” Garrett said.
Pitman 61, Oakdale 58: The Pride (7-7) beat the Mustangs (12-2) in the third place game. Sophomore Josiah Frank had 20 points for the Pride. Freshman guard Kobe Nunes had 25 for Oakdale, which lost its second game in a row after a 12-0 start.