It’s hard to imagine the La Salle High School boys basketball team could finish no better than two games above .500, and that’s exactly what Lancers coach Steve Goldstein envisioned.
But one needs to take a closer look to understand such a statement.
For starters the Lancers, 13-12 heading into Wednesday’s regular-season finale against Bishop Montgomery and 1-6 in Del Rey League play, lost a lot of firepower with several players graduating from last season’s team.
Among them was Matt Nolan, a 6-foot-6, 200-pound center who led La Salle to a 20-9 season, a 9-1 record in the Camino Real League and a quarterfinal run in the CIF-Southern Section Division 4A playoffs. Nolan was the Star-News Player of the Year.
The Lancers also moved to the much tougher Del Rey League with the likes of Serra (13-11, 6-1), Bishop Montgomery (15-8, 5-2) and Bishop Amat (18-8, 5-3).
“Any time you lose a star quality player like Matt Nolan and some of the other guys you lose, you’re losing a lot of firepower,” said Goldstein, in his 21st season at the helm. “It affects you, but we’re also in an extremely tough league.
“Honestly, I thought we’d be where we are, record-wise. Before the year, I was hoping we could be 13-12 right now and having a shot at the playoffs, and we do. I’m not upset with how the season’s gone. This team has kind of over-achieved, and I know it sounds weird.”
La Salle is No. 14 in Division 4A and all league foes play in higher divisions. The Lancers can apply for an at-large entry, and Goldstein said he thinks they have a good shot at getting a playoff berth. If La Salle gets in, Goldstein will have taken the Lancers to the playoffs in 19 of the last 21 seasons. La Salle missed the playoffs three years ago. Before that, there was a 14-year gap when it last happened.
If the Lancers earn an at-large berth when the pairings are announced Sunday, Goldstein believes playing a tough league schedule will more than prepare them come playoff time.
“We wouldn’t walk into the game with awe or scared,” he said. “I hoped they (the league schedule) would prepare us if we got into the playoffs. We won’t see anyone in our division with as much athleticism as we did in our league.”
In other words, watch out.