NCS basketball: How Kennedy-Fremont feels about facing Salesian

The Kennedy boys basketball held a meeting Monday. Coach Alex Ovalle told his players to be honest before asking an obvious question: How many of you are nervous?

About half the team put hands up.

The Titans of Fremont will travel up I-880 on Tuesday night to play Salesian in the first round of the North Coast Section Division III playoffs. The Richmond private school has not lost this season and is ranked No. 1 in the state by Cal-Hi Sports and No. 5 nationally by MaxPreps.

Kennedy went 0-14 in the Mission Valley Athletic League but applied for the playoffs because it met the section’s criteria. The Titans had a winning record against teams within their enrollment division and were 6-6 against non-league opponents.

“I know there are a lot of people saying, ‘6-20? Oh, man. Why did they even apply?” said Ovalle, who took over the varsity program this season.

The coach responded by mentioning his team’s three wins in four games against Division III opponents and the number of larger schools in the MVAL, including powerful James Logan (Division I) and Moreau Catholic (Division II).

He also noted the excitement his program is starting to generate on campus. In the previous four seasons, Kennedy had won just eight games. This season’s team nearly matched that total.

“If you look the scoreboard, yeah, it says we lost by 19 to Mission,” Ovalle said, referring to league mate Mission San Jose. “But that was our senior night and in the four years I have been at Kennedy, I have never seen it that packed. I’ve never seen it that loud. The crowd was into it. There’s a change. It’s happning. Slowly.”

Ovalle, 28, wanted his team to experience the playoffs, which was why he was disappointed when the NCS’s streamed selection show Sunday got it wrong. Kennedy-Richmond was shown on the graphic against Salesian, not the Fremont school.

“I was telling my guys, ‘We didn’t make it to the playoffs. I’ll collect your uniforms tomorrow,’” Ovalle said. “Then 30 minutes go by and one of my players showed me a picture of the NCS widget on MaxPreps, saying Salesian College Preparatory playing Kennedy, and it has my logo. I was like, ‘No, way! We’re in?’ That was one of the goals with the team this year.

“We weren’t expected to go too high in league. But we had a favorable non-league schedule that, if we took it serious, we could make playoffs. Our seniors had never won more than five games in their varsity career.’”

As for the matchup, Ovalle called it a privilege and an honor to play a powerhouse like Salesian, another opportunity for his team to learn what Salesian already knows.

“Winning games is new, competing in games is new to these boys,” Ovalle said. “It’s all excitement. I’m nervous. I’m not going to lie. First time the school goes to the playoffs since 2010-2011. Teachers across the campus are saying, ‘Congratulations. You made it.’ Our game is to compete. If we can compete with the No. 2 …read more

Source:: The Mercury News – Sports


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