Since week one, Irvine Valley’s greatest strength has been its depth. Come week 14, the men’s basketball team will see how deep it really is.
Head basketball coach Jerry Hernandez learned Monday that three of his top starters- Kashif Watson, Blake Wallace and Bryce Webster- could be out for an undetermined amount of time.
“I’ve been coaching a lot of years, and never before have I seen something like this,” Hernandez said.
Watson and Wallace, who have combined to average 26.5 points and 12.4 rebounds per game during the Lasers 21-2 start, are out for undisclosed medical reasons.
Webster received a laceration to the arch of his foot when he stepped on a piece of porcelain glass. Six stitches later, his prognosis is a one to three week recovery.
The unfortunate news comes just one week after the team advanced to a No. 2 ranking in the state and No. 1 status in Southern California, and five days after their 10th straight victory- an 84-57 road rout of Cypress College.
The IVC starters combined for 51 points on 64 percent shooting before giving way to the Lasers bench, which, led by AJ Kapanoske, pitched in 33 points. The 6’8″ sophomore center finished with five blocks and 11 points on 4 of 4 shooting.
Kapanoske was one of five Lasers to score in double figures Wednesday and is leading the team in field goal percentage at 71.7 percent this season.
He and his teammates will have to start leading in other areas to supplement the offensive production of the Lasers’ big three.
+Watson finished with 10 points, 12 rebounds and seven assists in only 28 minutes of play Wednesday. Wallace had 13 points and was 3-of-3 from beyond the arc. Webster was 5 of 5 shooting to finish with 10 points.
Hernandez said he is looking to have Kapanoske fill Webster’s shoes at center, while players like Jaron Devine, Perry Webster and Brandon Hucks will be asked to step up with increased minutes. The three players combined for only 23 minutes of playing time Wednesday.
IVC’s defense, which holds the second-best mark in the state for points allowed with 63.5, clamped down on the Chargers and managed to contain Cypress leading-scorers Sean Starkey and Khalif Boyd.
The Lasers limited Starkey to five points on 2 of 10 shooting from the field and just 1 of 6 shooting from behind the arc. Boyd, Cypress’ top shooter, was held to 13 points and 33 percent shooting from the floor.
Now shorthanded, IVC is set to face sister school Saddleback College, Jan. 30, to conclude the first round of Orange Empire Conference action.
The Gauchos (5-15, 1-4) swept the Lasers last season, but have just one returner from the roster that advanced to the semifinals of the state championship.
But given the Lasers’ current roster situation, they’re not taking anything lightly.
“If you come in here casually and don’t respect opponents, they’re gong to get you,” Hernandez said. “We’ve got to throw out the record and want to do well. Now that we’re a little more short-handed, it’s going to be a challenge.”
The teams will face off in Saddleback’s gymnasium for a 5:30 p.m. tip-off.
“We always want to play well when we play them,” Hernandez said. “For us, they’re our UCLA-USC rivalry.”