Mountain Ridge boys build for successful future

By: 
DARRELL JACKSON, Glendale Star Staff Writer

After losing 23 games last season, the Mountain Ridge boys’ basketball team entered the 2018-19 season with new goals.
“I’m going on my eighth season as varsity head coach at Mountain Ridge. I was an assistant at St. Mary’s for 10 years,” Eli Lopez said. “I was head varsity coach at Barry Goldwater for two years, as well as an assistant coach at Arizona State University one year.”
As head coach, Lopez said his goal is to improve on every aspect of the game.
“We will do a little bit of everything,” Lopez said. “We will try to take advantage of playing a fast pace, up and down game, but will focus on executing in the half court as well.”
While they lost five seniors to graduation, the Mountain Lions return seven players who had playing experience last season and Lopez said that added experience will help this year.
“Last year we moved up two freshmen and five sophomore to varsity,” Lopez said. “They played a lot of minutes for us and gained some great playing experience last year.”
 Returning seniors Trask Morgan and Joe Nunez will lead a team that has only three seniors on the roster.
“We want to provide pressure on the offense and force our opponents to play out of their normal structure offense,” Lopez said. “That is our goal each game as our program philosophy is to play as a team and not as individuals. Play as hard and smart as possible and be mentally and physically prepared.”
Twin sophomores Austin and Aiden Clayton return to the team this year; however, they had limited playing time last season but have the ability to have an impact in each game.
“Even though we have most everyone returning, we are still young and need to improve, mostly on playing mentally and physically tougher and making the right decision more consistently,” Lopez said.
With the season underway, the team has already improved on last season’s win total starting this year with six wins in its first eight games.
“As a team, we need to continue to get better as the season goes on.  We will need to play extremely hard and smart each game,” Lopez said. “We will need to be more aggressive as the season goes on and we expect to beat the teams that we are capable of beating and putting ourselves in a position where we have an opportunity to play in the state tournament.”
Playing in the 6A Desert Valley Section, the Mountain Lions face a tough task with some of the top teams in the state, Scottsdale Chaparral, Peoria Liberty and Phoenix Pinnacle in the same division.
Lopez said he believes come January, he will know what kind of team he will have and how far they can advance.
“I believe the first couple of weeks in January we will know if we have continued to improve during December and the winter break, which will be important for our success,” Lopez said. “This will be a successful season if we exhaust all our efforts to greatness.”

 

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