Pitman’s newest record holder named Modesto Bee boys basketball Player of the Year

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Two years ago, Pitman boys basketball coach Harvey Marable got exactly what he felt the team needed when a 14-year-old, barely 6-foot freshman stepped into the gym.

He was tasked with replacing a senior-heavy class that was led by a four-year varsity player who left Pitman as one of the best players in school history.

That freshman, Avery Sanchez, was a normal rookie, wide-eyed and in awe of the talent he faced on a nightly basis. He welcomed the opportunity to be the team’s starting point guard from day one.

Josiah Frank, his predecessor, a 1,000-plus point scorer, averaged 16.5 points per game as a sophomore and 20.7 points as a junior. He likely would have had an even better senior campaign, but played nine games in a shortened spring season during the spring of 2021, averaging 16.4 points a game.

Pitman’s Avery Sanchez advances the ball during the Central California Athletic League game with Modesto in Modesto, Calif., Friday, Jan. 26, 2024.
Pitman’s Avery Sanchez advances the ball during the Central California Athletic League game with Modesto in Modesto, Calif., Friday, Jan. 26, 2024.

“He definitely was the missing ingredient we needed that first year, because we didn’t have anyone that was going to be a true point guard for us,” Marable said of Sanchez. “He came in to fill that spot.”

“When I was a freshman, I felt that I belonged,” Sanchez said. “I always felt like I was one of the best players in the gym even if it wasn’t true at all times.”

Sanchez was second on the team in scoring that season, averaging 10.9 points per game while serving as the primary ball handler.

“It was tough,” he admitted, reflecting on his freshman season. “Going through a full varsity season when you’re 14 years old, playing against kids that are three, four years older is hard on the body. It’s kind of hard on the mental, but I think it set a great base level for me to work off of with three years remaining.”

Two years later, Sanchez is a three-year varsity starter, a 1,000-point scorer and a school record holder. After a junior season in which he led the Pride to a Central California Athletic League title and a Sac-Joaquin Section Division I play-in win and was named CCAL MVP, he is The Bee’s 2023-24 boys basketball Player of the Year.

“I feel honored,” Sanchez said of being named the Player of the Year. “I think it’s a great honor to represent our area and our community of basketball as well.”

Pitman’s Avery Sanchez drives to the basket for a layup during the Central California Athletic League game with Modesto in Turlock, Calif., Friday, Jan. 26, 2024.
Pitman’s Avery Sanchez drives to the basket for a layup during the Central California Athletic League game with Modesto in Turlock, Calif., Friday, Jan. 26, 2024.

The Pride started the season 7-0 and went perfect in their first tournament at Riverbank High. On Dec. 9, Sanchez broke the 1,000-point threshold against Central of Fresno at the Clovis West Nike Invitational. Just 11 games later, Sanchez scored 33 points in an overtime victory over Gregori to eclipse the 1,200 point mark and become Pitman’s all time leading scorer. He passed Pitman alum and current Hilmar coach Austin Keaton, who scored 1,212 points and held the record since 2008.

“When it happened, it wasn’t really one of the main things on my mind because we were still in season and I was focusing on winning league at the time and then trying to get as far as we can in playoffs,” Sanchez said. “But looking back on it, it’s a great honor to be up there with some of the players that have played at Pitman.”

Said Marable: “That’s something no one can take away from you. It validates the time and hard work he’s put in outside of basketball season to be able to accomplish what he’s done.”

Sanchez averaged 19.7 points, 6.9 rebounds, 3.6 assists and 1.9 steals per game this season, all career highs, to lead Pitman to its first 21-win season.

The Pride’s mascot cheers on Avery Sanchez during the Central California Athletic League game with Modesto in Modesto, Calif., Friday, Jan. 26, 2024.
The Pride’s mascot cheers on Avery Sanchez during the Central California Athletic League game with Modesto in Modesto, Calif., Friday, Jan. 26, 2024.

But as a product of a competitive household with two parents who played college basketball and an older sister, Mya, who plays Division I soccer at Oregon State, Avery isn’t satisfied. He has high hopes for his senior season.

“I just want to keep increasing the standard of our program and in our area of basketball,” he said. “I want to set an example of how a school from our area can compete with other areas … and build an understanding of how we need to work outside of practice. Winning comes with it, so I’m looking forward to all of that.”

Fan Vote Player of the Year

Jace Beidleman, Ripon Christian

Jace Beidleman was the epitome of versatility for the back-to-back Sac-Joaquin Section Division V champion Ripon Christian basketball team. The senior recorded multiple points-rebounds double-doubles and nearly notched a few triple-doubles with points, rebounds and blocks. Some of it comes with being 6-foot-9, some of it requires years of workouts, practices and games, to perfect his craft.

Beidleman, one of a handful of returners from last season’s section championship team, was named the Trans Valley League MVP after a stellar regular season in which he led the Knights to their third straight league title. Their lone league loss came to Escalon, a 64-62 slugfest that Ripon Christian used as a learning experience. They ended the regular season on a 10-game win streak. They were dominant in the postseason, winning their Division V section playoff games by an average of 20.3 points.

Beidleman was at his best in the Knights’ 20-point win over Futures in the section title game, recording 18 points, 18 rebounds, seven blocks and six assists.

“That’s just how I play,” Beidleman said of his versatility after the section title game at UC Davis on Feb. 23. “In middle school I grew up being a guard, I was never the tallest. ... Then high school hit and I had to switch to post, but I’ve been playing sports since I was little, so I feel like I’m athletic enough (to make an impact). I just try to help out the team any way I can.”

The fans took note of Beidleman’s stellar season, voting him The Bee’s Boys Fan Vote Player of the Year. He finished first in the poll, collecting 45% of the more than 44,100 votes. He finished ahead of Pitman’s Avery Sanchez and Gregori’s Jayson Powers, who came in second and third, respectively.

Modesto Bee 2023-24 Boys Basketball All-District Team

First Team

Gavin Sykes, Modesto Christian, Junior

A Player of the Year candidate, Sykes hit the ground running in his first game this season, helping the Crusaders capture the Modesto Christian Holiday Hoop Classic. He was the team’s leading scorer and was voted Tri-City Athletic League MVP. Sykes led the Crusaders to their third straight Division I section title and made a game-winner to send the Crusaders to the Northern California Open Division semifinals.

Jace Beidleman, Ripon Christian, Senior

Named the TVL MVP, the 6-foot-9 Beidleman was one of the Knights’ stars on offense and an anchor on defense. He helped lead Ripon Christian to its second straight Division V section title, notching a near quadruple-double in the championship game. He averaged 12.7 points, 11.5 rebounds, 2.6 assists & 4.3 blocks per game.

Prince Major, Beyer, Senior

Major set career highs multiple times this season but no performance was better than his 38 points and 9 threes against Davis. He finished with 31 points to lead Beyer to a Sac-Joaquin Section D-III Play-In win. Major was named Western Athletic Conference MVP.

David Nnaji, Patterson, Senior

Nnaji was key to Patterson’s success, scoring 20-plus points in 13 games and reaching double figures in all but two games. The Central California Conference’s MVP averaged 18.4 points a game and finished sixth in the section in made free throws (115) and 14th steals per game (3.1). He led the co-league champions to a 22-7 overall record and a trip to the Division II section playoffs.

Jayson Powers, Gregori, Sophomore

Powers came into his own in just his second varsity season, averaging 19 points and 8.5 rebounds a game. The All-CCAL first-team honoree opened the season with a 36-point, 10-rebound outing and didn’t slow up, finishing 12th in the section with 14 double-doubles. He had four 30-point games.

TP Wentworth, Central Catholic, Senior

Wentworth was one of three double-digit scorers for the Raiders. He averaged team highs in points (14.3), rebounds (8.2) and assists (3.1). The VOL MVP, Wentworth played forward and guard in his senior season and helped lead the Raiders to a 25-7 overall record, an unbeaten league record, a section semifinal appearance and a NorCal berth.

Second Team

Myles Jones, Modesto Christian, Sophomore

Andrew Johnson, Turlock, Senior

Reuben Lewis, Downey, Senior

Wesley Payne, Central Catholic, Senior

Jake Vander Veen, Ripon Christian, Sophomore

Marcus Washington, Modesto Christian, Senior

Honorable Mention: Beyer: Marcus Pandey; Big Valley Christian: Cohen Boone, Titus Boone; Central Catholic: Jordan Magana, James McGee; Ceres: Carey Mastin, Manuel Orteega; Davis: Jaden Singh; Downey: Collin Eden; Enochs: Trent Acedillo; Escalon: Samuel Jimenez, Ethan Garza; Gregori: Kaleb Smith; Hilmar: Xavier Silveira; Hughson: Cade McLaughlin; Johansen: Caiden Bounmany; Modesto: Phillip Gonder; Modesto Christian: Jeremiah Bernard; Oakdale: Jacob Cavanaugh; Patterson: Amari Coley; Pitman: Justin Anderson, Cole Martin; Ripon: Landon Gillespie, Dawson Downs; Ripon Christian: Luke Crivello; Riverbank: Erick Jimenez, Rolando Bazan; Turlock: Dutch Lawrence