It was a successful basketball season for mountain area high school basketball teams. Yosemite High boys and girls and Minarets boys made the playoffs. But perhaps the best story of the basketball season, and one you don't hear a lot about, was the varsity Minarets boys basketball team. It is a team the school should be very proud of.
The Mustangs completed their season with an overall record of 7-19. It was a drastic improvement over the previous season in which Minarets won two games. The improvement culminated with a first-time appearance in the CIF D-V playoffs.
The season's success took place despite a lot of turmoil: the mid-season dismissal of the head coach Beau Campbell, working with another head coach, and players' perception of "going it alone." But the team weathered the storm. The success of Minarets this year rests squarely on the shoulders of the players.
School Principal Mike Niehoff called a parents' only meeting to explain the parting of ways. No specific reasons were given during the January meeting and understandably, many players and parents were puzzled by the decision.
"We decided as a team to stay together," said senior point guard and team captain Joey Ramirez. "After coach Campbell was let go we had a meeting. Some thought about quitting. It was on a lot of guy's minds. We said, no matter what, lets stay together and have a great year for coach." They did just that.
Last year's head coach, Don Watkins, who is the head varsity baseball coach, filled in for the final games of the season. Watkins helped lead the team to the playoffs, while incorporating a different coaching philosophy than Campbell. Watkins devoted his coaching energies to basketball while his assistant baseball coach Corky Arneson, led the baseball team in Watkins' absence. Assistant basketball coach Pete Reardon remained in place. The players, despite all this change, responded admirably.
No player had a tougher adjustment than coach Campbell's own son, Bo. Bo, a 6-foot, 2-inch sophomore forward naturally was very down after the decision. It was one thing to lose your coach but since the coach was also your dad ... it would be so difficult to imagine.
The easiest thing for Bo would have been to quit. It was certainly something Bo thought about. The hardest thing to do would be to stay. Bo decided to stick it out. The decision changed the fortunes of the Mustang varsity. With Bo staying on the Mustangs rallied, saved their season, and advanced to their first-ever playoff game.
"Sure, it was very tough for me and my family," said Bo. "Of course I thought about leaving the team, but my dad wanted me to stay and finish strong. I love my team. My teammates are some of my best friends. I did not want to let them down."
Bo is about character. A 3.9 GPA and possible future architect, he was also the teams' most consistent scorer and rebounder (12.5 points and five rebounds per game average)
The dismissal did something amazing: it actually built a stronger team. "We became closer as a group because that was all we had left, and that was each other," said Bo. "Coach Campbell set a goal at the beginning of the year for us to go to Selland Arena."
Selland Arena, the finals venue of the Central Section Basketball playoffs, is a tremendous setting and a great place to watch all the division finals. It was an audacious goal, especially for a team that won only two games the previous year. The Mustangs were the No. 6 seed in D-V and played at Riverdale Christian in the opening playoff game. It was a great contest. The Minarets battled all night. The Mustangs, despite losing Campbelland senior Cody Smith to foul trouble were in a position to win the game. A last second 3-pointer by Ramirez fell short and the playoff dreams of the Mustangs vanished. If Minarets had won, they would have played Laton High, a team they lost to 55-54, earlier in the season. A victory over Laton would have put Minarets at Selland Arena. "In a way, we felt like it was us against the world and the only way to prove ourselves was to make the playoffs," said Ramirez. "We are proud of what we accomplished." It is still unclear what happened with coach Campbell. Mid-season dismissals are common in the NBA, but not at high school. No matter what the specific reasons, the kids in the program rallied as a team.
Often kids can teach us adult lessons in life. Despite life's negativity and turmoil, Minarets basketball players stayed together -- for each other.