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Golden Eagles still soaring

With a stellar returning group, Del Oro’s eager for another shot at section title
By: Eric J. Gourley Journal Sports Writer
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LOOMIS — Spencer Butterfield is getting all too used to finishing runner-up in section championships. Last winter, he led Del Oro High to the Sac-Joaquin Section Division III basketball title game, where the Golden Eagles fell to perennial power Sacramento. A week ago, Butterfield played his last game at tight end in Del Oro’s Division II football championship loss to Rocklin. The senior hopes this is the season the Eagles go all the way on the hardwood. “We feel a lot more prepared this year,” Butterfield said. “We’ve got a lot of experience under our belt, but we’ve still got that fire that we had last year. We didn’t have anybody who had really been in that position or under that pressure before, so it’ll be good into this year having that.” Butterfield averaged a team-high 18.6 points per game as a junior in carrying Del Oro to its first coveted Arco Arena appearance since 1998. Despite graduating a whopping 10 seniors and all their height from the 2007 squad, the Eagles finished 22-9 overall last season, taking second place in the Sierra Foothill League and landing a CIF Northern California Regional playoff berth. “The one thing that really stood out about that team was their resiliency,” head coach Geoff Broyles said. “They just had this ‘refuse to lose’ attitude and played their tails off every single night. They shared the ball. They took care of each other and supported each other. Hopefully we’re going to see that same attitude this year.” There’s no dearth of experience this winter. Point guard Brian Rowe, who averaged 5.8 points last season, is the only graduated starter. The other three graduated players combined for 83 points in 31 games. A committee will take Rowe’s place at the point. Senior Luke Bradley, who scored 21 total points last season as Rowe’s backup, is the current starter. “There are a lot of scenarios that could play out right now because we feel like we’re pretty deep,” Broyles said. “We want to get the ball in the hands of people who can make good decisions, and Luke can do that for us.” Senior Nick Lewis (4.5 points per game last season), a strong open shooter, will see some time running the offense this season. Butterfield and junior Aaron Hendricks, a sharp-shooting third-year starter who averaged 14 points as a sophomore, will also factor into the mix at point. “Aaron’s a really good shooter, but he’s also a much better ball handler and distributor than I think people probably would know,” Broyles said. “They know he can really make shots, but he’s a very good all-around basketball player.” Senior Nico Ruiz, who averaged 7.3 points as starter at power forward last season, will see more time on the wing this season. “He’s very crafty with the basketball, but he’s such a good slasher and he’s been working on his shot,” Broyles said. Lewis and Jordan Broyles, all-tournament selections who helped the Eagles defend their title at their Del Oro Invitational last weekend, will also play wing this season. Returning starter Jon Root (5.8 points) will be joined inside by juniors Kyle Russell and Sawyer Sewell and senior Garrett Penney. “It’s really good because we have a lot of competition for playing time,” the coach said. “Realistically, I think we’re going to play 12 guys. I see us going 10-12 deep just about every night.” Hendricks remembers the road to Arco for the underdog Eagles last season. “It took hard work and digging in every night to show teams we weren’t just there to rebuild,” he said. “If we work hard every night, we’ve got another chance to do it.” Broyles expects no less from his squads. “They had a taste of success and they enjoyed it, and they want to get that again,” he said. “Obviously every team’s goal is to see how deep they can get into the playoffs, and it’s no different for us. Our kids want to get there, but we also know it’s a very difficult road. The attitude and desire is there for us to make a good push.