Team chemistry has long been one of the biggest cliches in high school sports.
Yet it’s the secret to almost every program’s success. Players have a special bond. A unique connection. It’s a vague platitude, impossible to tell in most cases.
The real secret behind the Manhattan Beach Mira Costa boys’ basketball team’s 24-1 start this season? Their starting backcourt, seniors Will Householter and Dylan Black, used to hate each other.
“In club practice I’d be like, ‘God, I hate that kid,’” Householter said with a grin.
They’ve played against each other and together in youth basketball for a decade. In one scrimmage at 13 years old, Black remembered Householter ripping his jersey. Black shoved him. Householter shoved back.
Householter, who recently tallied his 1,000th career point for Mira Costa, didn’t remember ripping Black’s jersey. It was a long time ago.
“But I’m sure I did it,” said Householter, who has committed to Division III Claremont McKenna.
They arrived at Mira Costa as freshmen after growing up about 20 blocks away from each other, expecting to make the varsity team. That summer, though, they realized they had a shot. Suddenly, they found themselves competing against each other again — both determined to play point guard.
Four years later, they’ve become best friends and perfect complements on a Mustang team heading to perhaps its best season in program history. They figured it out pretty quickly: Householter would dribble. Black would shoot. Things ended up pretty simple after all.
“We play really well off each other because he knows exactly where I’m going to be,” said Black, who has committed to Division III Carnegie Mellon.
In a mid-January rivalry game against Redondo Union, the sharpshooting Black started slow, missing a few open shots. In the third quarter, though, his pure jumper started falling, Black hitting a couple of threes in a row. Coach Neal Perlmutter tried calling a play for Householter.
No, Householter said. The senior point guard insisted they run a set for Black. He was hot. By the end of the third quarter, Black had four threes and Mira Costa was ahead by 20 points.
“It’s rare as a head coach that you get two guys that are best friends that are also leaders of the team,” Perlmutter said.
The best teams weave together notes of a beautiful symphony. Householter is the composer, a high-IQ guard who snatches rebounds and finds teammates in tight windows. Black is the violinist, his jumper often a beautiful melody. Seniors Trey Pearce and Nick Lundy are the cellists, talented complementary scorers capable of rich performances. And 6-foot-7 sophomore Preston Ezewiro is the bassist in the middle, a defensive menace.
Metaphors aside, they’re simply fun to watch. They might fall just short of the Open Division, but will be a formidable opponent for anyone in Division 1.
Redondo coach Reggie Morris Jr. put it best.
“I wouldn’t say it’s anything overly technical,” Morris Jr. said when asked what made Mira Costa tough to play. “They’re a team with great chemistry, with experience, and they play as though they’ve played with each other for a number of years.”
Freshman steps up
With just a few seconds remaining and a chance to seal a huge win over Chatsworth Sierra Canyon on Friday night at Pauley Pavilion, Sherman Oaks Notre Dame star Dusty Stromer dribbled down and flung a pass to a wide-open teammate in the corner.
Freshman Zach White received the pass and had scored just two points until that moment. Suddenly entrusted to make a game-sealing decision.
“I saw him at the three-point line,” Stromer said postgame, “and I got a little nervous.”
But White comes from a special pedigree, son of former Encino Crespi great and California All-American running back Russell White.
“He told me to embrace the moment,” White said when asked if his father had any advice.
Knowing he wanted to run down the clock, White caught the pass in the corner, pump-faked, and calmly dribbled into a mid-range pull-up jumper that he hit, sealing a 66-62 win for Notre Dame.
“Super proud of that kid,” Stromer said.
Source: LA Times