CALEXICO — And just like that, Imperial Valley League Basketball has bounced back around for another chapter of hoop action. Last season, the league schedule and line-up were amended to 10 games due to the pandemic, where Central and Holtville tied for league honors. This year, a full season of normalcy is penciled in and ready to go.
The Spartans ended last season at 10-3 overall and 7-1 in league which earned Central co-champion honors.
“We ended up being league champions,” said Spartan head basketball coach, Juan Valenzuela. “It was a co-championship with us and Holtville. The league was realigned last season. Since we beat Holtville in a head-to-head (league) match-up earlier in the season, we were awarded the league tie breaker.”
Central started off last year at .500 after beating Imperial 62-43 then falling to Calexico 59-52.
The Spartans then rattled off five straight wins over Holtville (57-27), Vincent Memorial (66-38), Southwest (62-56), Calipatria (62-28), and Southwest (54-42), which bumped their record to 6-1. Central then fell in a non-conference game against Holtville 59-39.
Three more consecutive victories saw the Spartans with a 9-2 record which earned the blue and white a spot in the CIF Division III playoffs. Central defeated Southwest SD in the opening round (72-64) but were finally knocked off by Sage Creek 77-55 in the ensuing round.
This year Central will only return one senior and a hand full of sophomores from last season’s varsity squad.
“The one difference this year is that we are going to have to be a bit more team oriented, in terms of ball handling with the loss of Jordan Reed to graduation,” said Valenzuela.
Amid Central’s success, Calexico has been the league’s kryptonite.
“I believe Calexico is the team to beat (coming in) based on the fact that nobody has knocked them off yet,” said Valenzuela. “We’ve competed well with them. Our games have come down to three matches decided by single digits. Not sure what Brawley has to offer this season and we all know that Southwest never takes a backseat in IVL. League games are always a different animal because everyone gets up for one another.”
Calexico ended last season with a 4-1 overall record and 2-0 in league. The Bulldogs may have been the arguable conference winners since they never lost in conference play. However, a COVID outbreak three games into the season forced a team shutdown throughout the remainder of IVL play.
With three opening victories over Vincent Memorial (78-43), Central (59-52), and Southwest (66-61), the Bulldogs early resume was good enough to earn them a spot in the playoffs at 3-0.
“We lost in quarter finals to Hoover who lost to Sage Creek in the DIII championship on buzzer beater,” said Calexico head basketball coach Hugo Estrada.
Calexico will be in DII this season.
“Seven years ago, we were in DV, then a couple years ago we won DIV, last year we played in the second round of DIII, and now another jump,” said Estrada.
As per coaches, Calexico will return 90 percent of last year’s squad. This season marks Sanchez’ fourth year as varsity head coach.
“The three kids that have been with me since I stared four years ago has been Aaron Tabarez, Julian Beltran, and Christian Bravo who are all seniors now,” said Estrada. “We came up at the same time as I developed as a coach, they became more solid as young athletes, and now that they are seniors who are continuing to grow. We just want to give the kids the freedom to play their game within our system. Our short-term goal is to just get a little bit better every single day. We always talk about getting 1 percent better every day. We want to get better, prepare, and be healthy so when we get into our league games, we can try to be at our best. Hopefully, we can play our best ball when our best is required when those league games start in January.”
Southwest ended last season at 4-6 overall and 4-4 in league play. The Eagles came out flying high with two straight wins over Calipatria (62-36) and Brawley (62-52). Then, SHS hit a two-game skid versus league powerhouses Calexico (66-61) and Central (62-56).
After splitting their first four games, the Eagles went two of five to close out the regular season. At 4-5, the purple and gold made it into the CIF Division IV playoff. Southwest played a solid game versus Escondido Charter in round one but fell two possessions short with a 56-51 loss.
Southwest lost three seniors to graduation and will return the majority of last year’s varsity roster as the lion’s share of personnel were underclassmen.
Imperial ended the season at 4-5 overall and 3-4 in league. The Tigers came out of the gate last season with a tough schedule right off the bat. Central and Palo Verde defeated Imperial, 62-43 and 45-30 respectively. The red and white won a game versus Calipatria (63-51) which situated Imperial at 2-1 after three contests. Two more losses to Southwest (70-43) and Holtville (50-35) put the Tiger’s in a midseason slump.
Imperial bounced back with consecutive victories over Brawley (51-48) and Vincent Memorial (46-38) which evened out their overall record at 4-4. A .500 record was good enough to get the Tigers into the playoffs. Calvin Christian knocked off Imperial in the first round of the Division IV playoff. No roster information for this season was available.
Brawley ended last at in league 2-5 and 2-5 overall. The Wildcats dropped their first three games versus Holtville (69-36), Palo Verde (53-42), and Southwest (62-51).
Brawley found a mid-season rhythm which brought their record one game under .500 after two consecutive wins against Vincent Memorial (65-58) and Calipatria (52-42).
The Wildcat IVL run was short-lived as back-to-back falls to Imperial (41-48) and Central (60-42) ended the blue and gold’s season.
Brawley did not advance to the post season. BUHS will lose six seniors to graduation as well as their head coach as Robert Christian stepped down. Raul Navarro is listed as the Wildcats new basketball head coach for the 2021-2022 season.