WATSONVILLE — Christian Quintero spent numerous days at Watsonville’s beautiful beaches during the offseason leading into his junior year, but Pajaro Valley’s star point guard wasn’t kicking back and soaking in the sun.
No, Quintero was usually dripping sweat and losing his lunch as his older cousin, Fernando Olivarez, pushed him through grueling sprints up and down the sandy hills of the Pajaro Dunes.
“It’s the hardest workouts I’ve ever done,” Quintero said, “but it made me better.”
Boy did it.
Bigger, stronger and more explosive than last season, Quintero was a dominant force on the basketball court for the Grizzlies this winter, and the coaches of the Pacific Coast Athletic League’s Cypress division said as much, recently naming him the division’s Most Valuable Player.
“It means a lot because I worked so hard for this season and for my teammates,” said Quintero, who also earned a spot on the All-PCAL-Cypress First Team. “I didn’t do it without the guys around me. My teammates allowed me to be the player I was this year. I want to give a big thanks to all of them.”
Quintero helped Pajaro Valley finish runner-up in the PCAL-Cypress behind North Monterey County, which had Brandon Ducusin, Dulian Morelos and Joseph Bertao named to the first team.
According to the stats kept by MaxPreps, Ducusin (13.6), a junior, and Morelos (13.3), a senior, each averaged more than 10 points per game, and Bertao, a senior, wasn’t too far behind his fellow Condors with 8.5 points per game.
Quintero, a 6-foot-1 bucket machine, was dynamite over the Grizzlies’ 10-game league slate, averaging 24.6 points on 43.4 percent shooting from the floor, according to the stats kept by MaxPreps. He also averaged 5.9 rebounds and 3.2 steals per league game.
Pajaro Valley coach Andre Bailey called Quintero a “game-changing player,” and argued that he could have carried most teams in the PCAL’s lower divisions to title contention.
“You could have put Christian on Seaside, or Soledad, or another team that struggled in league this year, and that team would have been competing for a league title,” Bailey said. “I truly believe that — without a doubt. He does so much for a team.”
And he did more this season than in years past for Pajaro Valley, which finished the year with a 17-10 overall record.
All of his averages were up from last season, and he led the Grizzlies to their first-ever Central Coast Section quarterfinal appearance by pouring in a career-high 46 points in a 75-67 win against host Mills in the Division III playoffs. His incredible scoring output came on just 20 shots, hitting 7-of-10 from beyond the arc.
“He continued to get smarter,” Bailey said. “I think he’s a better scorer than he was last year, but he shot better last year. He found ways to score. He took better shots.”
And he was able to take advantage of mismatches against smaller players, bullying them from the elbow with a burgeoning post-up game that wasn’t in his repertoire last season. The strength and explosiveness developed during conditioning at the beach with Olivarez, a record-setting football player and track and field athlete at Watsonville High a decade ago, turned him into a runaway train in transition, too.
“I felt stronger, more explosive, lighter than I’ve ever been,” Quintero said. “I could get to the rim easier in transition. That’s where a lot of my shots came this year.”
Quintero, who has hopes of playing college hoops, said he still has plenty to improve on heading into his final high school season. At the top of his list: on-ball defense.
“I strongly believe that he can play at the next level, but he needs to be able to show that he can guard college-level guards,” Bailey said. “With us, he’s guarding big men, but at the next level he’s going to face guys his size that are faster and quicker than he’s ever seen.”
It was the third consecutive season Quintero was honored by the coaches of a league. He was named the top player in his class in the Monterey Bay League Pacific division as a freshman and a sophomore. For his senior year, he’d like to earn an honor that the entire team can share.
“After we lost in the playoffs, the juniors that are going to be seniors next year all came together and we all said we don’t want to leave this school without putting up [a championship banner] in the gym,” Quintero said.
Teammate Justin Rodriguez, a senior, was named to the PCAL-Cypress Second Team.
N.M.C. senior Isaiah Solorio also made the second team.
Gilroy won the Elgie Bellizio Team Sportsmanship Award.
St. Francis senior guards E.J. Kelly and Andrew Seymour earned a spot on the PCAL-Mission First Team.
Kelly and Seymour helped the Sharks finish tied for third in the league, and advance to the CCS semifinals for the fourth straight season.
They completed their season with a 17-7 overall record.
Over the Sharks’ 10-game league slate, Kelly, a three-year member of the varsity squad, averaged 12.2 points, 4.6 rebounds, 4.1 assists and 2.9 steals, according to stats kept by MBayPreps.
Seymour averaged 14 points, 4.5 rebounds, 2.9 assists and 2.5 steals in league action.
The Sharks also earned the league’s Elgie Bellizio Team Sportsmanship Award.
Pacific Grove senior Josh Cryns was named the PCAL-Mission M.V.P. after leading the Breakers to the league crown.
Watsonville senior captain Lucas Ruiz was named to the PCAL-Santa Lucia First Team.
Ruiz led the Wildcatz in points, assists and steals per game, according to the stats kept by MaxPreps. He averaged 8.5 points, 1.9 assists and 1.8 steals for the season, and upped his game in league play by scoring in double figures in six PCAL-SL games.
Watsonville took second in the league behind champion Oakwood, and finished with a 16-8 overall record a year after winning only three games.
Oakwood’s Andre Velijokic was named the league’s M.V.P. for helping the team win the league title.
Watsonville senior forward Michael Camargo made the league’s second team.
Ceiba College Prep senior guard Jarrod Garcia was named to the PCAL-Arroyo First Team.
Ceiba, competing in its second varsity season, finished the year 1-10 overall, but Garcia managed to shine despite the Spartans’ struggles. He averaged 24.6 points, 7.3 rebounds, 3.5 assists and 2.2 steals per game.
Garcia, who also played soccer for Ceiba this winter, finished third in the CCS in points per game behind Summit Prep’s Garret Kelly and P.V.’s Quintero.
Editor's Note: This article will publish in the March 1 edition of the Register-Pajaronian.