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Tesoro boys basketball coach Steve Garrett talks with his team during a time out during a CIF-Southern Section high school basketball playoff game against Rancho Verde, Tuesday, Feb. 14, 2023 at Tesoro High School in Las Flores, Calif. Tesoro plays Orange Lutheran in the CIF-SS Championship, Saturday at Edison High School. (Ryan Kuhn, SOCoPrepSports.com)

Basketball

Tesoro boys basketball coach Steve Garrett sees similarities between this season, ’09 CIF championship team

Titans will play Orange Lutheran in the Div. 2AA Championship at Edison High School

LAS FLORES — It’s been 13 years since Tesoro raised a CIF-Southern Section championship trophy.

It was a 63-57 win over Ventura at the Honda Center in Anaheim. 

“Just to get it for these guys. We are all best friends so it’s a great feeling to get it for everybody,” said guard Brett Gudim in an interview after the win.

Fast forward to Friday, on the eve of the Titans second opportunity at the CIF-SS title when it faces Orange Lutheran, coach Steve Garrett can’t help but think of the similarities between his two teams. 

“The biggest thing is how close they are,” Garrett said. “They have bought into the team, bought it each other and are all about winning. Both represent how we want to be as a program.”

Garrett arrived at Tesoro in 2002. He’s finished with just two losing seasons and eclipsed 352 wins. 

But he said creating their right culture wasn’t easy. 

“It took time,” Garrett said. “I wanted to focus on how our character was going to be, and how our work ethic was going to be.”

This year’s team already created some closeness having played together since middle school. When they arrived at Tesoro and put on the blue and red, everything just came together. 

But the road together was turbulent.

They won just twice navigating through a 12-game pandemic season. One year later they won the South Coast League title but were upset at home by La Mirada in the second round of the playoffs. 

“We were hungry to win more after that sophomore year,” center Jake Bennett said. “Now we are all back and wanting to win a championship.”

Tesoro’s starting lineup of five seniors including forwards Bennett and Nathan Draper while Blake Manning, Carson Brown and Matthew Hanley are in the backcourt.   

First team all league player Kyle Gleason was slated to start but a hip injury forced him to forgo his senior season.

“It was tough,” Garett said. “We had to figure out how to fill that hole but the guys banned together and worked through it.”

Haney was put in to fill the void but while he has shown 

“I didn’t feel much pressure, I was just excited to get on the court,” Hanley said. “Last year my minutes were very limited and obviously losing Kyle was a big blow to this team. I’m just happy he is here supporting us.”

Over the course of the season, the Titans once again found their chemistry. Their four losses are by a combined 12 points and have seen individual success such as Brown surpassing Chris Manresa as the school’s all-time scoring leader.

Manresa was also on the 2009 CIF-SS Championship team. 

It just shows all my hard work is paying off and doing it with these guys here would are family, just means the world to be,” Brown said. 

Tesoro hasn’t faced Orange Lutheran since 2004. They lost twice to the Lancers that season. 

This group of seniors, will tell you this is not the same team. They have already tied the 2009 team with most wins in a season. Now they are looking for one more. 

The starting five will each go their separate ways after this season.

When they return to Titan Gym they hope to look up in the rafters and see the reminder what their senior year was all about. 

“We have been giving it all we got,” Draper said. “If we just keep our same intensity, I’m not worried that we will fall short of our goal.”

Ryan was born and raised in Dana Point went to Dana Hills High School. He graduated from Sacramento State University with a BA in Journalism. Throughout his career as a sports journalist, he has covered high schools, colleges, and professional teams. After working for multiple newspapers in as many states, he came to the conclusion that what he really wanted was to make sure the high schools in his hometown area got the sports coverage they deserved. Follow him on Twitter @rskuhn

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