Riverbank’s court, Riverbank’s sport and it showed in a contest against riverside neighbor Oakdale on Friday night.
In a spectacular setting for high school basketball, the Bruins made a season-opening statement, dropping Oakdale 69-26, but despite the lopsided loss, there is plenty to build off for the Mustangs varsity basketball team according to senior captain and guard Austin Archuleta.
“We knew it was going to be a challenge going in,” Archuleta said. “We embraced that challenge and now we’re hoping to learn from it.”
Riverbank ran out to a 21-10 first quarter lead and never let Oakdale back into it, running a full-court press with a slew of skilled guards and attacking the basket repeatedly at the Ron Peterson Tip Off Tournament, a three-day event staged at Riverbank Thursday through Saturday.
“They have great team chemistry,” Archuleta said. “They’ve played together for a while, they’ve got guys with high character and I’ve gotten to know some of their players over the years of summer ball and pickup games.”
While Archuleta applauded the Bruins’ chemistry on the court, he hopes to continue developing his chemistry with fellow captain and starting guard Octavio Padilla.
“I didn’t know much of Octavio until my coach had me go in and work with him when he was a freshman,” Archuleta said. “That’s where I created a bond and friendship because I knew at some point I would have to rely upon him in the future. We’ve become pretty good friends since.”
Against the Bruins, the 5-10 Archuleta scooped up loose balls, came away with rebounds and was a steady presence on the court. The quick and deceptively strong, Padilla took his lumps bringing the ball up court against a relentless press, but settled in during the second quarter and figures to be a focal point for a Mustang team that needs to develop a more productive offensive attack.
The 5-9 Padilla, is the only Mustangs player in the Mustang basketball program that owns a famous bright yellow “gym rat” shirt, a tradition passed down from another former Oakdale coach, and given to the Mustangs hardest worker.
“That kid is a beast in the weight room,” Archuleta said. “He maxes out at twice his body weight and since we started playing together I’ve always had his back and been able to rely upon him as a teammate as well.”
This past off-season Padilla, Archuleta and the rest of the Mustangs bonded as the basketball team participated in numerous pickup games and traveled to Santa Clara for four days.
“Everyone got to know each other real well,” Archuleta said. “And we’re all confident that we’re going to get better as the season progresses.”
At forward, Oakdale starts Shane Baxter and Adam Olson, often rotating during the game from the perimeter and down-low spots.
“Adam’s got a great first step,” Archuleta said. “His ability to get to the rim is like no other.”
Kyle Peterson and Nick McElmurry split time at center, but the Mustangs will rely heavily on the guard play of team captains Padilla and Archuleta as the season progresses.
“We were excited to start our season in Riverbank and play three quality programs with well coached teams,” said varsity coach Jeremy Fields. “We are not satisfied with our fourth place finish and are very enthused to get back to lots of practice this week.”
The team hasn’t had one practice with the full team, and Fields said that will be key in moving ahead, getting everyone on the same page.
“The kids are working hard to improve and we have a long way to go to get to where we want to be,” the coach said. “We are looking forward to an exciting season of Mustangs basketball.”
Oakdale’s first home game was scheduled against Linden on Dec. 10, from there the Mustangs are slated to host Hughson in the first round of the Oakdale tournament on Dec. 26 and travel to Atwater of the Central California Conference to take on the Falcons on Jan. 2.