Overview: They may not be flashy, but the Flames have proven to be deep, unselfish, balanced and versatile.
They can beat you with lights-out accuracy from beyond the arc, or they bruise you in the paint. They can win both shootouts and defensive dogfights.
As coach Dave Nutting said, this is a pure team — and a very good one at that.
“They hustle so much,” Nutting said. “That’s really nice. Everyone is working as hard as they can go. That’s why on a given day, (any) one person is a star of the team because everyone is working so hard. You don’t know who’s going to be having a hot hand.”
The results have reflected that hard work, with Lodi going 12-3 and putting up strong showings at challenging tournaments.
After taking the McDonald’s Classic in Stockton, Dave Nutting’s club won a consolation championship at the loaded Torrey Pines Holiday Classic down in San Diego. Lodi rallied to win a pair of nail-biters — its wins over Poway and Davis High were both decided by last-second shots. The lone loss in SoCal came against 15th-ranked Pacific Hills.
Key Players: Nutting wouldn't mention one single player who stood out, emphasizing the team's unselfishness. Still, it's hard to imagine the team having similar successful without juniors Benjamin Simi and Brandon Michelucci — talented, versatile bigs who feed Lodi's balanced attack.
Both players are capable shooters who can also score, rebound and defend inside. (Michelucci, in particular, has been a block machine so far.)
They were at their best during the McDonald's Classic, combining for 46 points in a win over host Edison.
Surprise: Early on, Nutting was particularly impressed with the way the Flames' press defense has developed. Against Edison, they were able to rattle a speedy Vikings club with tremendous activity by everyone on the floor.
Looking Ahead: Given the Flames' sterling track record in the pre-season, they should be considered the favorites to win the SJAA outright after claiming a co-championship last season.
Still, Nutting believes the league will be very competitive. He pointed to the fact that Lincoln, Bear Creek, Tracy and Chavez all had marks of .500 or better in conference play despite finishing with losing records overall.
"Everyone knows eachother so well, that those gaps narrow," Nutting said. "If you are a better team, you’re not that much better. In preseason they’re surprised, but (in league) there are no surprises anymore."
Friday's big league match-up on the road against the Trojans should provide an early look.