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By Marcus D. Smith–
Mesa Verde boys basketball held their final regular season league game on Tuesday, Feb. 11, when they hosted Casa Roble High School on the Mavericks’ Senior Night.
This wasn’t any ordinary game as the boys were playing for much more.
For starters, this was Senior Night and that meant the seniors needed to go out with a victory as they were honored on their last high school varsity basketball game ever being played in the Mesa Verde large gymnasium.
“I remember I had some senior friends last year, and it didn’t really hit me. I was like ‘ahh, it’s just another game,’” said Angel Rubio, reflecting on his Senior Night pre-game ceremony and playing his final game. “Then I came here [and] I was under the arch and the balloons with my mom and girlfriend… It was just like, ‘I don’t know, wow.’”
“After four years, I’ve given this program everything I had…it’s all coming to an end,” added Rubio, the 6’2, senior guard. “I stepped off the court for the last time today, and it just felt surreal.”
A win would protect their playoff berth. Last season the Mavericks sent their class of 2019 off with a win on Senior Night and a play-in game in the CIF Sac-Joaquin Section 2020 Boys’ Basketball Championships’ – Division IV playoffs.
So with this season coming to a conclusion, it was only right that the seniors went out with as victory, defeating Casa Roble, 56-42, also giving the Rams their 27th loss of the season.
Rubio also recalled telling his then-senior friends who made playoffs last year that he knew the team would make playoffs again the following year: “It’s just crazy because they got a playoff send-off last year, now me and the other seniors get it too.”
The boys started the season 0-13, and playoffs were way far fetched and not on the minds of the “Verde and orange.” It seemed more or less attainable at the time.
The Mavericks played a bunch of playoff-tested competition in the non-conference games early on in the season, giving the team time to build chemistry, grow together, and fully prepare for the level of talent they would be facing in the Golden Empire League.
“There’s a lot of good things from this team. I think the chemistry we have together, most of the moments we’ve made together as a team,” said 6’4 senior big-man, Alex Bufkin. “Going from starting off like [0-13] to now, making playoffs. I think that’s incredible as a team going forward. I don’t think I’ve ever seen that really, but, here we are and I’m happy to be here.”
At first, Mesa Verde was waiting patiently for their full team to blossom as they were awaiting for athletes coming from other sports and physicals for other students to be cleared.
Once the New Year ball dropped, it seemed it all came together for the Mavericks.
“We started off rough: we were a whole new club, with a whole new offense. But we got through, we got used to it,” said Bufkin. “We started to trust it now, and it’s working out for us. And I can’t wait to see where this goes.”
After notoriously going winless to start the season, they won 10 games in 2020. It included a win streak of five games from Jan. 11 to Jan. 24, where the team began to gel and chemistry started to show on the hardwood. The Mavericks only lost five games in 2020.
“We just hit a moment where everything was clicking…everything was flowing,” said Rubio regarding that streak, which was his most memorable moment from this team.
The seniors of the team were ecstatic about how the season ended and look forward to accomplishing more milestones in the playoffs. This year they are shooting for better results and look to advance further in the playoffs than last year, as they add to a memorable high school career.
Bufkin said transferring to Mesa Verde and “making playoffs both of the years that I’ve been here,” were among his most memorable high school career moments. After being cut from the hoop team at Bella Vista High School his freshman and sophomore years, Bufkin transferred to Mesa Verde.
Last season, the Mavericks season had a first round exit of the playoffs, losing, 77-61, to the Mountain House Mustangs.
In the loss, then junior, Bufkin grabbed four rebounds and blocked a shot, while Angel Rubio scored two points, also a junior at the time. Now, their second chance at playoff success stands right around the corner.
On Feb. 18, Mesa Verde will travel to Rocklin to face Western Sierra Collegiate Academy. The Wolves finished 13-1 in their respective Sacramento Metropolitan Athletic League, and 24-2 overall. Tip-off is scheduled to occur at 7 p.m.
“I expect it to be tough. I expect the crowd to be wild…we just [have to] bring our A-game,” said Bufkin. Bufkin scored six points and pulled down 11 rebounds on his Senior Night against Casa Roble.
Three seniors were honored for Mesa Verde High School senior night, Angel Rubio, Alex Bufkin, and Jaden Burger.
Burger declined to speak on basketball matters following the game. The 6’4 senior says he’s excited to prepare for baseball, following the conclusion of basketball season. Burger was also the starting quarterback for the Mesa Verde varsity football team, making him a three-sport athlete.
Mesa Verde High School varsity basketball ended its league season winning back-to-back games, by an average of deficit of 12.5 points. The Mavericks won three of their last five games, looking ahead to Western Sierra, who average 55.3 team points per game. As a team, Mesa Verde averages 50.1 points per game on 48% field goal shooting.
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Sports Reporter Marcus D. Smith covers high school sports in Citrus Heights. Smith is a Sacramento-area native and earned his bachelor’s degree in journalism in 2017.
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