By: Stephan Ransom
This year the boys basketball team did something that the school hasn’t witnessed in over 25 years. They didn’t just make it to the North Coast Section Playoffs, they advanced to the semifinals. Captains Ryan Kirkbride and Stephen Ransom were the two oncourt leaders who pushed their teammates to give everything on and off the court, and in the classroom. Coach Steve Carter knew this group was talented, but he also knew that this year would test a lot of his players to be at the top of their game and hold every player accountable for their actions.
The Panthers season kicked off on November 30, 2021 against Armijo High School, a lopsided game left the Panthers victorious 80-45. The Panthers then followed their next six games with a loss-win pattern before finally grabbing their first win streak of the season against Antioch, Liberty, and Woodside.
Late December was a rough few weeks for the boys because of COVID-19 complications within the roster and many players missing games due to COVID-19. Panthers still fought through all hardships in the Pleasant Grove High School Winter Tournament grabbing 3rd place while missing 3 starters and having only 8 active players over the 3 day tournament.
After a two week break from games the Panthers began league play missing their two leading scorers Stephen Ransom and Ejay Rogers. Panthers outlasted Mt. Diablo 68-49. Two days later, the Panthers returned to the court at full strength for the first time in almost a month against Alhambra High School. Alhambra swept Benicia last season in league play and the boys knew that this was their main opponent when it came to making the playoffs. The Panthers fought hard and successfully defeated The Bulldogs 60-51 behind a nine point, eight rebound, and seven block game from Senior Forward Stephen Ransom.
Next game the Panthers fell to the Vanden Vikings in a Friday night matchup. The next two weeks The boys went on a five-game win streak.
January 29, 2022 the matchup of the season. Benicia vs. St. Patrick-St. Vincent. The highest attended game of the season as Benicia hosted the Bruins. St. Pats entered 13-1 and were ranked top 30 in California. The matchup was intense and the energy in the gym was unmatched by players and fans. Bruins led 32-26 at half and stretched the lead to 11 entering the fourth quarter, but the Panthers heated up at the right time going on a run and grabbing the lead late in the fourth on a clutch three-pointer by Junior Forward Jake Matteson. Fresh out the timeout with seconds left, Bruins guard Nick Medeiros came down and got a layup to take the lead. Then, with no timeouts the Panthers rushed down the court and got up a last chance attempt that fell short. Resulting in a 61-60 loss for the boys.
The boys lost to Monte Vista in a double overtime thriller and beat Vallejo, Alhambra, Berean Christian, Ygnacio Valley, and Concord to close out the regular season with a 19 win, 7 loss record.
Panthers earned the six seed in the Division two Boys Basketball North Coast Section Playoffs facing off against Windsor High first round which many found a coincidence because Football faced Windsor in the regular season and the Championship of the Division three NCS. Panthers made a statement in a victory which got Coach Steve Carter and Benicia High School its first 20 win season in more than 20 years.
Advancing to the second round, Panthers made the trip to Larkspur to face off against Redwood High School, the three seed in the playoffs. Panthers got off to an incredible start up 24-9 at the end of the first quarter and not looking back to the win (66-48) to advance to the semifinals.
The Panthers fell short against Salesian College Prep in a game where the Panthers couldn’t buy a bucket. The Panthers lost 70-46.
Sadly, the Boys weren’t selected into Northern California Regionals to play for a State Championship, but an impressive year all around that not many saw coming.
A 21 win and 8 loss team was able to go 10-0 in league play and win the Diablo Athletic League Valley Division Championship.
Stephen Ransom earned DAL Valley Division League MVP and was given First Team All-League Honors after leading the team in scoring and blocks with Ryan Kirkbride who gave offenses a hard time, leading the team in steals and assists. Jake Matteson was named to the Second Team All-League with Jacob French, Ejay Rogers, and Gavin Lane given Honorable Mentions.