Blue Devils test the waters in basketball openers

By From page B1 | November 25, 2012

Don’t tell Davis High and Vacaville that Monday’s CIF Foundation Games doubleheader doesn’t count.

The Blue Devil boys and girls are coming off of disappointing winters, and the Bulldog guys are trying to right the ship after going 8-18 while their female counterparts will be working to continue a path that saw VHS go 15-14 and win a first-round postseason contest.

While Monday’s outings are designed to raise money for Sac-Joaquin Section scholarships, they don’t figure in a team’s overall record.

In last year’s Foundation Games, DHS went 2-for-2 in Vacaville — the boys winning, 87-85, and the girls rolling, 73-61.

However, a two-game losing streak to end the regular season killed the Devil boys’ shot at the playoffs last February. The local girls weren’t a threat in the Delta Valley Conference. A year after going 10-0 in league, Davis foundered and finished 10-16 overall in 2011-12.

But hope springs eternal with this week’s tip-off and Blue Devil boys coach Dan Gonzalez has an interesting mix of returning veterans, incoming former JV players and athletes from other sports.

“While we still plan on playing an up-tempo game this year,” the veteran mentor explained, “I think we will be a more physical team with more of an inside game.”

Seniors Kevin Sorensen (6-foot-3) and Daniel Bonetti are ready to bang in the paint. Gonzalez believes depth at post could be the marked difference for a squad whose 83 points per game comprised the state’s third most potent offense.

However, the almost-no-defense philosophy killed DHS at the other end, and Gonzalez promises repairs to that leaky bow.

“Our strength … is our depth in all positions and our challenge will be getting first-year varsity players that are seniors (lacrosse’s Mikie Schlosser, baseball’s Hayden Duer and football’s Adam King) to play the up-tempo style for the first time,” Gonzalez adds.

The Devils will have plenty of returning firepower in the likes of Hayden Russell, Grant Dickerson and Brandon Strong, among others, and — if the defense improves and Gonzalez goes with the hot hands longer — those gaudy offensive numbers should return for Davis.

Vacaville will be led by seniors Malic Coleman and Dakota Dixon.

Meanwhile, the Lady Blue Devils have vowed to not be pushed around inside.

Still with a young team — nine underclassmen are on the 16-girl roster — Davis will look to senior Ashleigh Vandenbrink and sophomore Emma Stenz to create rough sledding inside for opponents.

Karen Foster, in her second year as head coach, says her team’s new-found strength will allow her girls to play a more physical style of defense.

In the offseason, DHS players worked on conditioning, used practice pads during high-octane drills and come into the 2012-13 campaign in better shape with a new mind-set. But …

Best-laid plans now see the locals with as many as six players out or low on fuel.

Guard Becca Hassid (hip) and forward Lauren Cordano (finger) are out, according to Foster. Vandenbrink and freshman wing Rachael Allison have been ill and Danielle Gantar (cross country) and Kylie Drexel (field hockey) have been participating in other sports.

“How quickly we can go from 16 strong down to 10,” Foster said, still encouraged about the long run.

“Our strength overall? Playing tougher as a team and working on defensive rotations,” the coach continued.

Vacaville returns a solid cast, led by two-time Monticello Empire League senior guard Julia DePonte and former Blue Devil Capriana Christian, now a junior. Sophomore Mackenzie Shrock is a solid post accompaniment.

Game times are 6 p.m. for the girls and 8 p.m. for the boys. Both contests are in the North Gym on campus at DHS.

Notes: When asked where her girls are behind the curve, Foster looked skyward and laughed: “Our favorite — free throws. It’s definitely mental … the girls just have to break through.” … The Lady Blue Devils get busy in earnest with a Wednesday contest at Pioneer (7 p.m.). The boys next play in the Bronco Roundup (vs. Yuba City) on Thursday at 4 p.m. “I wanted to play in a few different tournaments to play teams with different styles of play that we have not been exposed to over the last few years,” Gonzalez said. In addition to Bella Vista’s tourney this week, the Devils will appear in Vacaville and Salinas invitationals as well as their own Les Curry shindig Dec. 13-15.

— Reach Bruce Gallaudet at [email protected] or 530-747-8047.

Bruce Gallaudet

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