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Mesa Verde players win Golden Empire League awards, lose playoffs

Mesa Verde Mavericks sophomore guard Anthony Arguelles pulls up for a mid-range jumper. // Marcus D. Smith

By Marcus D. Smith–
Following their victory against Casa Roble last Friday, Mesa Verde took their talents to Rocklin to take on Western Sierra Collegiate Academy in the first round of the CIF Sac-San Joaquin Section Championships – Division IV.

The game came on the same day as the Golden Empire League awards announcements, where Mesa Verde’s very own student athletes were able to take home some awards.

From last week: Mesa Verde boys varsity enjoy Senior Night win, playoff berth

Junior forward Franklin Smith made the 2020 Golden Empire League All-League team.

“I didn’t think as a junior starting half-way through the season…that I would make an impact on this team the way I did,” said Smith. “To get the rebounds and be a second or first option, it feels great.”

His teammate, sophomore guard Anthony Arguelles, was named 2020 Golden Empire League Most Valuable Player.

Arguelles averaged 23 points per game and 4.8 assists per game, while helping lead the Mavericks to the second-best record in the Golden Empire League and obtaining a playoff berth.

“Coming in, I wanted to win it,” said the newly crowned MVP. “My first game my mindset was: ‘I want to win league MVP as a sophomore in my first year of high school basketball,’ because I didn’t play last year.”

Three more players from Mesa Verde High School made the Golden Empire League All-League Honorable Mentions list: sophomore Damien Robbins, and seniors, Alex Bufkin and Angel Rubio.

With a first round matchup awaiting to be played, the two seniors were the only members of the team who have had some previous experience in the playoff atmosphere.

Blame it on inexperience, as the team all season has allowed teams to jump out in the lead early in the first quarter. Blame it on jitters, it was the majority of the team’s first chance at this brand of basketball. The playoff atmosphere is much different.

“This [was] a very important game. It gave our sophomores and our freshmen some experience in the playoffs, so we can know what to expect for next year,” said Mesa Verde Varsity Head Coach Anthony Watkins.

Given the final score resulting in a, 69-51, loss for the Mavericks, the scoreboard does not completely depict the game. There were a lot of learning points for the guys who experienced playoff basketball for the first time tonight.

It’s win or go home.

Typically the one who punches first, is the one who has a better chance of becoming the victorious one. However, all season long, the Mavericks have found themselves down in the first quarter, or going into the fourth quarter and somehow finding a way to pull out a victory.

It was in the beginning of the game’s deficit that handicapped Mesa Verde for the remainder of the game. Western Sierra jumped out to a 10-0 run in three minutes to begin the game. The Mavericks ended with run after a fast break layup from senior Angel Rubio, with 4:55 remaining in the first quarter.

At the end of the first eight minutes of play, Mesa Verde was down, 21-12. It seemed for the rest of the game, whenever the Mavericks made a push, the Wolves had an answer for them.

“Everybody was playing to their best ability. We were running our play, we ran motion, [which is] what we were supposed to do — it just wasn’t working,” said Arguelles.

The game was as close as six points, early on in the third quarter. Western Sierra would soon connect on a barrage of threes and easy second chance buckets if they missed. They took over the game in the end.

With 2:01 remaining in the game, Arguelles would exit the game after taking a hard foul, landing directly on his knee. The final buzzer would eventually sound, putting an end to the 2020 basketball season.

“Our team is young, we have sophomores starting. I feel that they’re going to get more mature,” said Smith. “I’m going to get more mature, as a senior, and we’re going to be a force. It’s going to be good.”

Looking into the next season, they’ll take the lessons they learned from a grit and grind season such as this one. Mesa Verde will be looking to build on the momentum, the culture, and winning attitude that was developed this season and go further next season.

“I definitely want to further than a play-in game. I want to make it all the way to state, I want to win state. I think we’re definitely going to have the talent to do it,” said Arguelles on his confidence in his team.

Coach Watkins, plans to begin summer league workouts and tournament play in May. As they reflect on the makings of this season, they intend to come back even better in the winter.

“I think what we’ll try to do is put together a summer schedule that challenges us. And then we’ll put together a tougher, slightly tougher schedule for the season,” said Watkins, on increasing the level of competition in which the boys will face.

“We’re going to get together in May, the first Monday in May. We’re going to put a nice summer schedule together, 30 games in 30 days, and we’ll see what happens.”

Marcus D. Smith
Marcus D. Smith

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Sports Reporter Marcus D. Smith covers high school sports in Citrus Heights. Smith is a Sacramento-area native and earned his bachelor’s degree in journalism in 2017.

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