They are starting to put the puzzle pieces together.
For the Central Catholic boys basketball team, the defending CIF Sac-Joaquin Section Div. III champion, it was a tough 5-5 start to the season.
But, in the last two weeks, the Raiders have a 4-1 record that includes a runner-up finish in the Marin Catholic Tournament over the weekend.
Central Catholic (9-6, 1-0) continued its hot stretch with a 59-43 win over Manteca (11-5, 0-1) on Wednesday in its Valley Oak League opener.
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“We always knew that we could play to this ability and we have been showing it lately,” Raiders coach Mike Wilson said. “We are really coming together on the defensive end. They are physical and are in the right spots most of the time.”
Senior forward D’Angelo Bellamy and senior guard Justin Traina are two players who took a little bit of time reach their potential.
Both were on the football team that played in a section title game in early December and took time to get adjusted to basketball.
Traina, who struggled with his shot early in the season, had 18 points Wednesday, 12 of which came in the second.
“Early in the season, (Traina) was getting frustrated because he was expecting himself to play like he did tonight,” Wilson said. “We were trying to settle him down and tell him the reality is you have to get in basketball mode (more practices and games).”
Bellamy had only four points but Wilson said his defense has been “very good” this season, including a great effort against the Buffaloes.
Junior guard Dayton Magana had 18 points, most of which came from mid-range jump shots.
“We have a lot of shooters,” Magana said. “Justin has been hitting a lot lately. I figured they (Manteca defense) were going to him more and we started to balance the court out and I was getting looks.”
It was a back-and-forth game for 2 1/2 quarters until the Raiders went on a 17-2 run from the last two minutes of the third until the midway point of the fourth, when Wilson pulled his starters.
“It was the defense and the rebounding,” Wilson said. “It was one shot and then we got it. If they missed it, we weren’t giving them extra chances and it doesn’t matter who you play, you cant allow that.”
Central Catholic, which hosts East Union on Friday night, also had 12 offensive rebounds and sophomore forward Myles Clayton had 12 points and 10 rebounds.
Manteca senior forward Domonick Victor led the Buffaloes with 10 points.
Wednesday was the third straight game of at least 17 points for Magana, who said the team “is starting to come together.”
“It was tough in the beginning,” Magana said. “Not everybody played during the summer (couple of players on football team). We didn’t have that many practices together.”