Driven By A Confident Quartet Of Senior Captains, Miramonte Basketball Doubled Down On The Idea This Could Be A Special Year — So Far, It’s Aces •
PICTURED ABOVE: Miramonte senior co-captain, James Frye. (Berry Evans III photos)
When Chris Lavdiotis took over the Miramonte High boys basketball program prior to the 2019-20 season, he wasn’t shy in expressing his excitement about the sophomore class.
“I told anyone interested, including the sophomores themselves, that the class was loaded,” the coach said.
The path to the 2022 Class’s senior season certainly wasn’t linear, but Lavdiotis was there every step of the way, pushing the players and nurturing the confidence that he attempted to instill in that first season.
In the Summer of 2020, when the Miramonte basketball teams could only meet on outdoor courts — when every player had to use their own ball, and man-to-man defense was a no-no — the coach stressed flexibility and fun.
And getting better.
“Outdoors. Rain or shine. We were going to be there, and we were going to have a really positive attitude,” Lavdiotis said. “And anyone who asked me what it was like, I’d say ‘Man, we are having so much fun.’”
And if that was fun, the first eight weeks of this season had to feel downright enchanting.
Led by a dynamite core of seniors, Miramonte has won 16 of its first 18 games. The Matadors are in the thick of the Diablo Athletic League-Foothill Division race, and are a strong contender for the top seed in the North Coast Section Division III playoffs.
This may not have been exactly where Lavdiotis thought this team would be after 18 games, but it’s not entirely surprising to him either. That NCS No. 1 seed was a stated goal for this team before the season. The coaching staff was confident, and the players were bought in.
“This group has been good about taking on challenges,” Lavdiotis said. “We built a tough schedule for them because we thought they’d be good. And when we shared that schedule with them this past fall, they got excited.”
The Matadors won their first five games of the season by an average margin of 25.4 points. They were 6-0 when NorCal-ranked St. Ignatius-S.F. dealt them their first loss on Dec. 18. Miramonte followed that with a nine-game win streak that included a championship turn at the Don Bambauer Classic tournament at Marin Catholic High.
Going 4-0 at the Bambauer event included quarterfinal and semifinal wins over Serra-San Mateo and Folsom, two teams that were a combined 27-8 through Jan. 22. It was the victory over Serra that Lavdiotis pointed to as perhaps the team’s signature win over its first 18 contests.
“We beat them, and it was like, ‘OK, guys. See, we can really do this,’” the coach said. “I would say that mentally, that was the game where we realized we can be something special.”
Four senior captains lead the way for this Miramonte basketball team, all part of that original sophomore nucleus from the 2019-20 season. James Frye (6-foot-5), Caden Breznikar (6-5), Tyler Dutto (6-4) and Ben Murphy (6-0) are each averaging double figures in scoring heading into the last full week of January.
Frye leads the team with 17.6 points per game to go with 8 rebounds a contest. He’s committed to play collegiately for Claremont-McKenna.
“He’s really very versatile,” Lavdiotis said. “A terrific shooter and he’s really good around the rim. He’s also a terrific defender both on and off the ball.”
Breznikar is a 6-5 wing with point guard skills. He averages 12.9 points and a team-best 9.3 rebounds per game. He’s also one of the team’s most vocal leaders and someone Lavdiotis said “will do whatever he’s asked to do on the floor.”
Murphy is a 3-point shooter who has rounded out his game to be a threat off the dribble and on the defensive end. Meanwhile, Dutto averages a team-best 6.2 assists to go with 11.7 points and more than four rebounds per night. Dutto’s distribution success should come as no surprise to those who saw him play quarterback for the Matadors in the fall. He has an offer to play football for Morehead State, but Lavdiotis said he deserves looks as a basketball player, too.
“He’s just a tremendous competitor,” the coach said. “One of the best I’ve ever coached. He’s the same guy whether we’re ahead or behind, and he’s tremendous at running the team and keeping everyone organized. Some college should grab him for basketball, he’ll make the team winners.”
The team’s only other blemish on the record was a 60-54 league loss to Northgate-Walnut Creek on Jan. 18. The NorCal-ranked Broncos finished the third week of January with a record of 15-2.
“They played tougher than us, really,” Lavdiotis said of Northgate. “We were just outplayed for 32 minutes, and we still lost by just six. That was the message afterward.”
The next big test for Miramonte will be NorCal’s No. 1-ranked team, Campolindo-Moraga, which hosts the Matadors this Friday.
But Lavdiotis and this Matadors team aren’t getting too far ahead. They’ll preach body health — the team does Saturday yoga sessions together — and focus on taking on one challenge at a time.
And they’ll keep having fun.