By Joe Davidson
The No. 3-ranked Pleasant Grove Eagles are a couple of bounces and four points shy of a perfect start to a season of great promise.
They are 15-1, winners of nine straight, yet here is coach John DePonte wanting more, expecting more, demanding more. DePonte was pleased that his gritty and terrifically talented bunch beat Berkeley 57-52 in Game 3 of the Father Kelly Tribute at Jesuit on Saturday, but like any leader, he wasn't completely satisfied.
With top-ranked Jesuit and No. 2 Sheldon looming in a brutally tough and deep Delta River League that also features ranked Oak Ridge and upstarts in Ponderosa and Folsom, improvement was the theme in the post-game locker room.
"We've been in a little bit of a funk," DePonte said. "We're not always concentrating. We need better mental focus and execution over all. Jesuit and Sheldon may be deeper than us, and we have to do all the little things - boxing out, getting on the floor (for a loose ball), all the fundamental things."
Guard Malik Thames had 18 points for Pleasant Grove and wings Colfax Nordquist and Cody Demps contributed 13 each. With guard Caleb Jackson sidelined with a knee injury and 6-foot-8 post Arik Armstead competing in the U.S. Army All-American Bowl in San Antonio earlier in the day, the Eagles coaches challenged the unsung performers to up their game.
Matthew Hayes, Ben Nguyen, Matthew Smrekar and D.J. Dunn provided ball handling, defense and hustling against the Yellowjackets, for decades a girls national power but also a strong Bay Area boys program.
Pleasant Grove has lost only 62-58 to Bakersfield and is coming off a title showing at the MaxPreps Holiday Classic in Palm Springs.
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