Maxwell High School’s varsity boys basketball team has already established itself as a frontrunner in Division VI for 2017-18, mowing down two opponents in Greenville’s John Holland Classic last weekend to reach the championship game.
Tomas Mendiola, who has previously coached girls basketball in Williams, takes the helm this year for the Panthers. He inherits four returners from last year’s 6-13 squad.
Daniel Lara, a junior shooting guard, will be an integral part of Maxwell’s offense this year, along with senior posts Marcos Parra, Jake Sutton, and Angel Velazquez.
“Our shooting is above average,” Mendiola said. “That will keep us in games. We have lots of potential.”
Maxwell opened the season with victories over Elk Creek and Westwood. Since the gymnasium in Greenville is currently being renovated, their tournament was played in Westwood. The Panthers succumbed to Redding Christian in the championship, but Mendiola said Maxwell kept pace with the Lions for three quarters.
“We are playing really well at the beginning of the season,” Mendiola said. “This was a good way to ease into the season and get rid of preseason jitters. We’re still figuring out what we can and can’t do.”
Currently, junior Tony Ambriz is in the mix to play center, but the Panthers also have Vincent Ferrara, a 6’3” junior who “could be a force in the league” according to Mendiola.
“Vinny is working really hard,” Mendiola said. “He is going to blossom into a very good player.”
David Robinson and Efren Cruz, also juniors, provide depth in the post and guard positions, respectively, helping the Panthers overcome the loss of eight players who graduated last spring.
Captains Wyatt Perry and Chubby Rangel, fellow guards Donnie Manson and Isaac Magana, and big man Conner Lovelace all graduated in 2017. Last year’s team earned a Division VI playoff berth, but lost 55-44 in the opening round to Los Molinos.
“We just need to work on keeping our composure all 32 minutes against good teams,” Mendiola said. “As long as we play together, we are going to be competitive.”
The Panthers (2-1) open their annual Irene Wells Memorial Tournament on Wednesday versus Ipakanni Charter of Oroville at 7:30 p.m.