Pioneer High School’s college basketball team had a fantastic, undefeated season to win the Golden Empire League for the third consecutive year and advance to the CIF Sac Joaquin Section 3 Qualifying Game.
Their reward for such great play this season was the GEL Coach of the Year award for Barry Reese, Offensive MVP for Samrat Adhikary, an all-league first team for Carson Timothy, Jose Razo and Abel Patricio, and a pair of honorable mentions. for Dante Soltero and Nate Velasquez.
“This league win felt good for me,” Reese said. “We’ve had a stranglehold on the league here for the past few years, so it feels good to get through it unbeaten. Also, it was great for the kids in the team to continue what we were doing. This one was very satisfying as we weren’t full for much of the season.
Despite their loss in the playoffs, the Patriots should still be proud of their season. After all, only one team is satisfied after a playoff tournament.
“We just didn’t shoot well in the qualifying game,” Reese said. “If a team had someone strong in the position, they would overpower us. We haven’t seen such size during the league and only a few times in non-league games. We knew it would end up hurting us, and of course it did. If we had shot the ball well it wouldn’t have mattered, but it cost us.
The Patriots’ four main starters, Timothy, Razo, Patricio and Adhikary, all received postseason honors, along with the other two who started based on matchups in Soltero and Velasquez.
After a few years as a key contributor off the bench, Adhikary became the player the Patriots needed him to be in his senior year, earning him an MVP award.
“The season hasn’t started very well for him,” Reese said. “He came back thinking it was going to be one-sided, and it took him a while to get used to the way I wanted him to play. But after he settled in, he was definitely the better player. of the league, and it wasn’t even close.
Reese mentions that it felt good to have both an MVP and a championship title after winning a championship the previous season without the top prize.
“That’s what made this sweet,” Reese said. “We had the best team for the past few years and we didn’t get the MVP, so it was great that it finally happened.”
Helping Adhikary become the player he became was junior sniper Carson Timothy. At the start of the season, Timothy was turned off from three.
“We can’t wait for that sniper to come back,” Reese said. “He also brings leadership. As for the other kids, he has some credibility with his role on the baseball team. He will be the first here and the last to leave.
Jose Razo, who Reese said was the best shooter on the team and in the entire league, splashed three past Timothy.
“We had to find ways to make sure he’s healthy and able to play in every game,” Reese said. “He had to jump straight into league play when he got his health back. He has to work to show everyone he can be the best shooter in the league next season. We also need to launch his full game.
Abel Patricio has provided the Patriots with some length all season en route to an all-league selection.
“He’s very gifted,” Reese said. “The covid year hurt him. He hadn’t played since his first year, so he had to get used to bumping into bigger bodies. Huge things are expected of him. He will be able to counter the big guy from other teams, and hopefully he’ll be our version that people can handle.
Donte Soltero and Nate Velasquez died out between the faith starter and the sixth man.
“If we were playing with a big prototypical, it was usually Nate who started,” Reese said. “He was our banger and our best rebounder. He did his best to clog the post and clean things up. We are going to miss this senior leadership and this great body.
Soltero was the third sniper from the three-point line and started when the Patriots wanted to go small.
“Donte was also a great shooter,” Reese said. “That’s why the last game was so disappointing. I thought we could line up with shooters so Dante could go and try his luck at the post when we wanted to go small. That really opened up the playing field for Sam. That’s what made us dangerous, but we could get in trouble when the shots don’t go.
With Velasquez, Adhikary and Soltero set to leave, along with other seniors including Ajay Lucero and Keenan McCabe, Reese will still have a lot to do when they finally go for a fourth championship in a row.
“We just have to continue what we’re doing and sprinkle in some of the great players on the junior varsity team, and we should be able to do something similar this year,” Reese said. “I think we will be in the hunt for a league title. Casa was very young and Rio Linda enters the league. It will be open, but we should be in the mix.