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By Jeff Pack
Staff Writer 

Warriors boys basketball looking to rebound


Last updated 12/1/2019 at 11:20am

Shane Gibson photos

Fallbrook Warrior Cooper Sherman takes 3-point shot against O'Farrell Charter during a varsity boys basketball game, Nov. 19.

Head coach Ryan Smith knows it is going to take a lot of hard work by the members of his Fallbrook Union High School Varsity Boys Basketball team to make it into the playoffs this season. The team is off to a good start, with a 60-57 win over O'Farrell Charter Tuesday, Nov. 19.

"I want to get 10 wins," Smith said. "I think the biggest goal is to make the playoffs. I don't want to set such lofty goals, but I've told the boys I want to compete for a Division 5 title, which I think we can, but we're still ways away from that."

If the Warriors are going to compete at that level, they are going to be doing so on the back of senior Joel Calhoun, a four-year varsity player and returning second-team all-league player.

"Joel can score from all three levels," Smith said.

He also said the 6-foot-3 senior scored 29 points in the Warriors season-opening win over O'Farrell Charter.

Smith said Calhoun has worked hard on his leadership skills, continually lifts his teammates up, and even leaned on some of his friends on campus to come back to the sport for his senior season.

Four of the six new players on the Warriors varsity team returned to the sport. Smith said they are working hard to get back up to speed in the sport, but is encouraged by the maturity they are showing early on.

"Last year, we struggled with understanding that things aren't going to be easy and things are going to be tough and how to handle things when they were tough," Smith said. "This year's group, I mean last year we had eight or nine games last year where we had leads and the other teams came back and they beat us, because we just kind of gave up.

In the game with O'Farrell, the Warriors had a 16 point lead that they lost at one point, but came back to win 60-57, equaling their win total for all of last season.

"We have a group that's a little bit more mature and understands that it's a longer game and that you can't get too down on yourself too quickly," Smith said. "We ended up fighting back and getting the win the other night. So that was big for me to see. That was our biggest question mark coming into season – would we be mature enough in close games to come back and win after being down. We haven't been able to do that in the two years I've been here."

If opposing teams focus on stopping Calhoun, Smith said Cooper Sherman, who came on strong last season, can step up and lead the Warriors if need be. He had 19 points in the opener.

"He is an amazing athlete, three-year varsity player who can shoot from NBA range," Smith said. "He came into his own at the end of last year and can be the top scorer if Joel isn't."

Smith said another three-year varsity athlete, Yoni Villagran, is the guy who is the glue to the team that does whatever it takes to win.

Warrior Joel Calhoun dribbles the ball to the hoop against O'Farrell Charter.

Still, the Warriors only have nine on the roster for varsity and eight on the JV roster. Depth will be an issue if injuries mount.

But the win over O'Farrell made an impact on the program already, according to Smith, a couple of freshman athletes wanted to come out for basketball after seeing the win.

"Even football was dealing with the same thing where they didn't have a lot of kids for football," Smith said. "We're hoping this new freshman class kind of changes the culture a little bit. But I mean this group of seniors has won before. So, they've been there, done that. That helps us big time.

"But, you gotta change, you gotta win some," he said. "Maybe we can get people excited and get people to come out for basketball."

Jeff Pack can be reached by email at [email protected]


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