Few believed Aptos would be able to keep pace with a star-studded Santa Cruz squad this winter.
Three weeks ago, even head coach Brian Bowyer had reservations.
His feelings have changed.
Jan. 4’s 59-57 loss to the defending Santa Cruz Coast Athletic League champs solidified his belief in his team.
“I came into this game thinking we were going to win, and they came in thinking they were going to win the game also,” Bowyer said. “It was right where we thought it would be.”
The Mariners graduated three of their top four scorers from last year’s team, and their offense struggled through the first month of the 2018-19 season as it adjusted to life without Blake Welle, Rashaun Wooden and Forrest Hays.
Things have started to turn around.
Senior forward Logan Feldbrugge has provided a much-needed scoring punch to support senior point guard Max Pepperdine’s playmaking and scoring, and senior forwards Hunter Matys and Anthony Sanchez have also started to settle into their roles — something the team struggled with during its trying 2-4 stretch at the end of December.
Against Santa Cruz, Feldbrugge scored 23 points, Pepperdine added nine points and four assists, Matys chipped in 12 points, three rebounds, three assists and three steals and Sanchez finished with six points and 11 rebounds.
Aptos also scored its first SCCAL victory on Tuesday, beating Scotts Valley, 56-42.
The Mariners still feel they have plenty to improve on — finishing off close games, being at top of their list — but the recent progress has served as validation of their work during the winter break.
“There’s a few mistakes we made, backdoor screens that we missed, stuff like that, that we have to sure up,” Matys said after Jan. 4’s loss. “We have to work on that on Monday, and just get better.”
Aptos hosts Soquel tonight at 7 p.m.
In other boys’ basketball action from Jan. 3-9:
• St. Francis 55, NMC 53 - Andrew Seymour sunk a go-ahead jumper with three seconds left to push the Sharks over the Condors in non-league action on Tuesday.
C.J. Gomez set up Seymour’s game-winning shot by swishing a 3-pointer with 53 seconds left.
Seymour finished with 22 points and six rebounds.
E.J. Kelly chipped in 13 points and seven rebounds.
Gomez and Jake Taylor each scored 10 points apiece.
St. Francis (10-2) begins Pacific Coast Athletic League Mission division play tonight at Seaside at 7 p.m.
• PCS 64, Ceiba 34 - Jarrod Garcia had 24 points on five made 3-pointers for the Spartans in their PCAL-Arroyo loss on Tuesday.
Adrian Navarro added seven points.
• St. Francis 56, King City 42 - Jake Taylor had 18 points, six rebounds and five steals in the Sharks’ non-league win on Jan. 5.
Andrew Seymour added 11 points and four rebounds, and E.J. Kelly chipped in eight points, nine assists, five rebounds and four steals.
• Palma 62, Pajaro Valley 49 - Christian Quintero had a double-double (20 points, 10 rebounds, four assists, four steals) in Jan. 5’s non-league loss.
• Kirby 43, Ceiba 37 - Jarrod Garcia scored all but four of Ceiba’s points in a PCAL-Arroyo loss on Jan. 4.
• St. Francis 60, Watsonville 59 - Andrew Seymour hit four 3-pointers and finished with 20 points in the Sharks’ narrow non-league win over the Wildcatz on Jan. 3.
Jake Taylor added a double-double with 13 points and 12 rebounds.
For Watsonville, Fabian Rodriguez (12 points) and Jonny Silapan (10) scored in double figures.
• Pajaro Valley 59, Seaside 54 - Christian Quintero (19) and Brian Chavez (16) scored in double figures for the Grizzlies in their non-league win over Seaside on Jan. 3.
LINE OF THE WEEK (Jan. 3-9)
• Jarrod Garcia, Ceiba - 33 points with five 3-pointers, six rebounds and three steals against Kirby School on Jan. 4.
UPCOMING GAME OF THE WEEK (Jan. 11-17)
Watsonville vs. Greenfield; Jan. 11, 7 p.m. - The two winningest teams in the Pacific Coast Athletic League Santa Lucia division square off in both teams’ league opener.