Fox Kailiawa fires a jumper (Photo: Lunch)
The last basketball renaissance in Mammoth Lakes was thwarted by the untimely twist of an ankle.
The year was 2005. Mammoth High School Boys’ basketball opened its season by sweeping a roadtrip at Silver Valley and Lucerne Valley. The team had twin towers in Chris O’Dell and Garik Linnastruth, slashers in Logan Johnston and Josh Crunk and a deadeye shooter in Klinton Zeek.
But the heart of the team was Linnastruth. Granted, Garik was not blessed with great athleticism, but what he lacked in speed and leaping ability was offset by basketball smarts and an iron will.
The third game of the season was a raucous affair versus Lone Pine at home. The stands were packed and emotions ran high. In the 3rd quarter, Linnastruth sprained his ankle.
He missed the rest of the Lone Pine game and the next six league games.
Mammoth lost them all.
Garik returned on a gimpy ankle for the final game of the year against playoff-bound Lone Pine. He had all the lateral movement of the Statue of Liberty. No matter. The team won. One couldn’t help thinking about what might have been.
The bulk of the team graduated that year. The smart young coach, Jason Stone, also moved out of town.
The team won two league games the next year. None for four years after that.
In places like Mammoth where skiing naturally rules as the winter sport of choice, the fortunes of the basketball program generally ebb, yet … there are windows of opportunity. If Linnastruth doesn’t get hurt that year …
Fast forward to the present, where Coach Jason Patterson, Assistant Coach Robbie Presson and eight varsity ballplayers (six sophomores and two juniors) are gallantly trying to crack that window open again.
The core of this group has been playing together since middle school.
Though they suffer from a fairly common local basketball affliction (lack of height), the team is blessed with an up-and-coming point guard in Cole Presson, a never-say-die work ethic and a coach who knows his x’s and o’s.
On Tuesday, for example, the team was down 33-9 at the half against Boron, but rallied to outscore the Bobcats 32-27 in the second half.
Last Saturday, the team shot 60% from the field in a loss to Mojave.
Earlier this year, the team was down by 1 with 20 seconds to go against Big Pine before falling 42-39.
When asked about his goals, Junior Co-Captain David Ramos didn’t hesitate, “Make CIFs next year.”
What about this year? “Win a few games,” he said with a sheepish grin.
You gotta start somewhere.
And that’s where Coach Patterson comes in. Now in his second year, Patterson, who grew up in Shelton, Wash., is the son of a basketball coach and knows the game. More important, Patterson is working on getting his teaching credential in multiple subjects, meaning … it appears he has a chance of sticking around and building interest in basketball as a whole, from the youth programs through high school.
If you want to catch the team in action, MHS has home games on both the 3rd and 4th against teams it should be competitive with. Admission to local students, says Asst. Coach Presson, will again be free.
The eight-man roster also includes Co-Captain Jack Woo, frontcourt players Matt Graef and Caleb Koehn, and Guard/Forward Liam Carrigan.