Arcadia boys basketball seeks playoff redemption as new season looms

The Arcadia basketball team scrimmages during a Nov. 13 practice. (Independent Newsmedia/Josh Martinez)

About nine months have passed since the Arcadia boy’s basketball team made an early exit from the 5A playoffs.

Now, the Titans finally have a chance to avenge that loss.

Arcadia entered those playoffs as the No. 2 seed and with a 23–3 regular season record before losing to No. 15 Liberty High School in the opening round.

With the 2017-18 season slated to start Monday, Nov. 20 against Sierra Linda High School, the Titans will look to return to its perch and make a deep run in the playoffs.

In attempting to make that return, the Titans will work with a roster riddled with experience. That experience also remembers the sting of last year’s playoff defeat.

Arcadia guard Alex Lozevski. (Independent Newsmedia/Josh Martinez)

Guard Alex Lozevski said the team will use that sting to reach greater heights this year.

“You learn more from losses than you do wins,” Lozevski said in a Nov. 13 interview. “That just gives us more leadership, more veteranship to know, when we’re in that type of situation, how to keep our composure and win those tough games.”

Five players, including 2016-17 leading scorer Max Moses, have moved on from program but Head Coach Stephen Danford will use a roster that features nine seniors.

Of those seniors, forward Aidan Weber and guard Jaylin Fleming return with significant experience from last year.

Weber averaged a double-double in 2016-17 with about 15 points per game and about 10 rebounds per game while Fleming averaged about 10 points per game.

Forward Luke Ashworth said this is a group of players that, as freshmen, had an 18–0 season.

“That’s one of the reasons why everyone knows we can be great,” he said in a Nov. 13 interview.

The benefits to having a roster brimming with experience, Coach Danford said, include a solid team chemistry and easier practices of fine tuning instead of teaching whole new concepts.

“We’re farther ahead at this point this year than we were and it’s because we’ve been together for so long,” he said in a Nov. 13 interview.

Arcadia forward Luke Ashworth. (Independent Newsmedia/Josh Martinez)

This familiarity has led to a sturdy team chemistry between the players. In fact, Lozevski said this team feels like a family to him.

“The years we’ve played together, the losses we’ve had and the wins, it’s really brings us together and makes us play together as a team, which is what we need to win a state championship,” he said.

Having team chemistry doesn’t only lend itself to the basketball court, but it also manifests itself off it.

Weber said recently, the players had a poker night. Along with that, he said the team is constantly going out after practice to get food together.

Ashworth said he doesn’t see that chemistry leveling out any time soon. He said the group plans on having team meals to help grow that chemistry.

These get-togethers also serve a benefit on the basketball court.

Coach Danford said one example of this chemistry playing out on the court is his players are making no-look passes because they trust there is going to be a teammate there to receive the pass.

“They know each other’s strengths and weaknesses really well,” he said. “They put each other in a place where they’re going to be successful.”

To find that success, Coach Danford said Arcadia will rely on its strengths of shooting and running to carry it back to the playoffs. He said he thinks this is his best shooting team he’s had since he’s been at Arcadia.

Arcadia forward Aidan Weber. (Independent Newsmedia/Josh Martinez)

While Coach Danford said this is one of his bigger teams he’s had, the Titans’ offense deemphasizes a big man under the basket and relies on the team’s bigger players shooting the ball. This is because he said his team still is undersized compared to Arcadia’s opponents.

The Titans have two players who stand 6-foot-5, one of those being Weber, as the tallest players on the team, according to Arcadia’s roster on maxpreps.com. All but two Titans are six feet tall or higher.

Last year, Weber shot 10-of-29 from 3-point range, although the majority of his 381 points were two-point baskets.

Weber does return as a leading scorer but he said his goal is to increase his assists. Last year, he averaged 1.4 assists per game.

“It’s not a one-man sport, we need everybody to impact the game,” Weber said in a Nov. 13 interview.

As for the team, Coach Danford said he wants to focus on improving defense and rebounding before the season starts. He said defense will require drills to improve but bettering rebounding requires an increase in desire to get to the ball and pull it down.

Even though the Titans fell out of the playoffs early last year, Coach Danford said he does not view last year as a failure.

Instead, he wants to use it for this season.

“We’re just looking to build on what we did last year one step at a time,” he said. “Make the playoffs, play well enough during the season to make the playoffs and then do some damage in the playoffs.”

The Arcadia basketball team scrimmages during a Nov. 13 practice. (Independent Newsmedia/Josh Martinez)

News Services Reporter Josh Martinez can be contacted at jmartinez@newszap.com or at 623-445-2738

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