El Cajon Valley senior guard Syon Hicks, who had a game-high 26 points, drives to the basket.
EL CAJON — “Pressure bursts pipes,” said El Cajon Valley boys basketball coach Marty Ellis.
He may have been speaking about the situation at the El Capitan High gym, where a broken pipe flooded the floor and made the court unplayable.
But Ellis was referring to defensive pressure, the kind exerted successfully this season by the Braves.
El Cajon Valley was at it again Friday night at the Old Grossmont Gym — El Cap’s home away from home — in a 64-43 victory over the Vaqueros that gave the Braves (14-5, 4-0) sole possession of first place in the Grossmont Valley League.
“We believe in pressure, and we’re never, ever going to take it off,” said Ellis. “Somebody’s going to break down. ... The other team, they start to get tired, they start to turn it over and it starts to play in our favor.”
El Cajon Valley’s energetic defense included pressuring the ball just before the half-court line. That forced the Vaqueros (7-14, 3-1) into turnovers that fueled a fast-paced transition game.
The Braves limited El Capitan to just two baskets over a span of 11 minutes, 37 seconds in the first two quarters before the Vaqueros’ Kade Kygar (team-high 11 points) hit a last-second 3-pointer to cut ECV’s lead to 32-17 at the half.
Having 6-foot-8 senior forward Ronne Readus (four points, 15 rebounds, four blocked shots) made a big difference for El Cajon Valley in the middle. Though on this night, Readus’ teammates constantly drove to the basket for buckets while drawing fouls.
“Going to the hoop is what we want to do,” said Braves senior guard Syon Hicks, who scored a game-high 26 points. “It’s a high-percent shot, easier baskets, and gets us to the foul line.”
Said Ellis: “When you’ve got athletes, you don’t need to spend time shooting jumpers. I’m all about attacking.”
The coach unleashed his secret weapon in the second half, however, with senior guard Ricky Garcia launching five 3-pointers to finish with 15 points.
El Cajon Valley reached the San Diego Section Division IV semifinals a year ago. The Braves have their sights set higher this year in Division III, where they are No. 2 in the power rankings behind Valhalla.
ECV defeated Valhalla when the schools met this week. The teams will play a rematch in two weeks.
“We can only go forward, and hopefully further, than we did last year,” said Ellis. “If we stay focused, then the sky is the limit.”