The pandemic may have kept North State basketball players off the court for more than a calendar year but Enterprise’s junior duo of Brennan Ramirez and DeMarreya Lewis-Cooper didn’t have to wait long to find their rhythm.
Ramirez dropped 26 points and Lewis-Cooper pitched in with nine points and 11 assists Tuesday to lead the visiting Hornets past rival Shasta 53-44 in the season-opener.
Ramirez and Lewis-Cooper are Enterprise’s main holdovers from the 2019-20 team which helped bounce Shasta from the postseason. Ramirez had 22 in that contest and supplied more daggers in the opener.
“We already have that chemistry,” Ramirez said. “We have to step up … and get everyone involved. We have to bring a lot of that energy.”
The pandemic condensed athletics into shortened seasons and the Hornets basketball team had two practices with its full roster since football ended last Friday.
Enterprise coach Jim Deaver credits his assistant Abie Ramirez — Brennan’s father — for getting the team ready since Deaver was switching between coaching golf to track and field, and basketball.
Shasta felt the same pinch except the Wolves stayed shorthanded due to the football team wrapping up the season this Friday. The Wolves were missing two key seniors in James Weaver and Layton Dunlap, but fellow senior post Jacob Singleton provided the senior leadership for an inexperienced Shasta squad with 17 points. Tyler Dutro was the next high scorer with eight.
“We have a whole new cast of guys,” Shasta coach Jordan Freilich said. “Jacob is a senior leader and we expect a ton of him, especially in terms of energy and he’ll bring that. Once we get our football guys back that will help us too in every way.”
Both teams’ lack of court time showed in the early going as each team had four turnovers in the opening four minutes. Ramirez took charge, scoring 11 of Enterprise’s 13 first-quarter points. He followed a transition bucket with a 3-pointer from the corner and Lewis-Cooper knocked down a trey just before the buzzer to put Enterprise ahead 30-27 at the break.
Ramirez and Lewis-Cooper combined or 29 points at intermission with Ramirez tallying 21.
“He’s been in the weight room all COVID and getting shots up every day,” Deaver said. “He made himself that way. We fully trust him to get those shots up.”
The Wolves kept pace early in the third but Ramirez knocked down another triple to put the Hornets up seven. A Jacob Merrill putback cut the deficit to four with 3:32 to go in the period but football star Jahari Johnson contributed a short jumper and was on the scoring end of a transition pass for a layup from Lewis-Cooper to get separation.
Singleton’s 3-ball in with 5:23 to go in the fourth got Shasta within seven but the Wolves wouldn’t get closer the rest of the way.
Lewis-Cooper, the Shasta County Sports preseason No. 1 Boys Basketball Returning Player, was busy creating the offense throughout. He set up his teammates for buckets in transition, in half-court sets and through dribble-drive penetration. Lewis-Cooper assisted the final three field goals of the game for Enterprise — finding Brandon Michoff twice inside and Johnson for a reverse layup on an inbound play.
“I was struggling to get the ball in the hoop a bit so I wanted to get teammates involved to get some buckets,” Lewis-Cooper said.
After reaching the section semifinals last year and taking some lumps in football by losing five straight this spring, Enterprise is determined to find success across the five-week season on the hardwood.
“It was a tough football season for (Enterprise) but we’re going to do the winning on the basketball court,” Ramirez said. “We’re just getting started.”
Enterprise 53, Shasta 44
Enterprise (1-0): Ramirez 26, Lewis-Cooper 9, Johnson 7, Michoff 4, Sanchez 4, Bond 3.
Shasta (0-1): Singleton 18, Dutro 8, Thao 7, Merrill 6, Mangels 3, Watkins 2, Foster 1.
3-pointers – Enterprise 6 (Ramirez 4, Lewis-Cooper 2); Shasta 4 (Thao 2, Singleton, Mangels).