Tough Losses Are In The Rearview As Livermore’s Granada Boys Basketball Team Storms Into EBAL Semifinals •
PICTURED ABOVE: Granada senior wing, Kevin Gad (Chace Bryson photos)
For the better part of a month, the Granada boys basketball team has been right on the cusp of a breakthrough win.
Playing in one of Northern California’s toughest leagues, the Matadors had suffered four losses since mid-January. All of them were by five points or less. Three of them were to opponents ranked in SportStars’ NorCal Top 20.
On Tuesday evening, they sat in the visiting locker room at Dougherty Valley High in San Ramon prior to an East Bay Athletic League quarterfinal showdown with the Wildcats. The host team represented one of those close regular season losses, a 76-71 defeat on Jan. 23 in the same gym.
There was no need for big speeches or complicated game plans.
“We wrote it on the board pregame. That it’s about us,” senior Kevin Gad said.
Focused on what they do best — defense, rebounding and ball movement — the Matadors grabbed the monkey off their collective backs and sent it packing down Interstate 680. Granada surrendered the first basket of the game, but never trailed again in a 68-58 win over NorCal’s No. 14-ranked team.
“It’s one of those things where you lose some tough ones early on in the year and you can only hope to be in those situations again to show that you have learned, and that you’ve improved and that you’ve grown as a group,” Granada coach Quaran “Q” Johnson said after the game. “I think today was one of those days where it showed that we learned how to get over the hump, as tough as that still was.”
Granada’s breakthrough win improved its record to 14-6 overall and advanced them into a 7 p.m. EBAL semifinal on Thursday night at top-seeded Dublin.
The No. 11-ranked Gaels represent another opportunity to avenge one of the Matadors’ tough losses from earlier this season. On Jan. 12, Dublin outscored host Granada 17-6 in the fourth quarter to come away with a 59-56 win.
“Those losses taught us a lot,” Matadors senior forward JJ Mitchell said. “Especially that in the fourth quarter, we can’t melt down. A lot of our games have been close games. We just have to keep together – especially in the fourth quarter.”
The fourth quarter wasn’t particularly easy for Granada during Tuesday’s win, either.
Dougherty Valley (18-5) forced the Matadors into five turnovers over the first 2-plus minutes of the quarter. The Wildcats pulled within five points when a Ryan Beasley put-back made it 57-52 with 2:57 left to play. Dougherty Valley then nearly got a stop, but could not secure the rebound. Granada retained possession and Gad would hit his sixth 3-pointer of the night on an inbound play with 2:29 remaining.
Gad finished with 26 points and nine rebounds, both team-highs. He also added four assists.
“That kid is crazy,” Mitchell said. “Best player in this league. He does it all. When we’re down and need a bucket, we know who to call: Kevin.”
Dougherty Valley’s hotline belongs to Ryan Beasley. And the junior guard certainly delivered again against Granada, posting game-highs of 28 points and 12 rebounds.
However, there was no question the Wildcats certainly felt the absence of fellow starting guard Connor Sevilla. The junior, who averages around 17 points per game, missed his second straight contest with a deep thigh bruise suffered during a practice.
Wildcats coach Mike Hansen said that suddenly having a week off to get healthy before the North Coast Section playoffs may not be the worst thing for his team. But he wasn’t making any excuses for Tuesday night’s loss, either.
“They’re really good,” Hansen said of Granada. “Q is doing a great job. They’ve got players and they’re all healthy. There could be a Round 3 if we both get into Division I and fight our way through. I sure would like that.”
Meanwhile, Granada gets to put its focus on Round 2 with Dublin.
“We know what to expect from them. We know who they have,” said Mitchell, who finished with 19 points, six rebounds and four assists in the quarterfinal win. “(Wednesday) is going to be a tough practice and then Thursday we’ll know what to expect.”
Granada will craft a game plan. But the pregame message won’t change.
It will be about them.