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When It Comes To Basketball, The Bruin Boys Are... ON THE RIGHT TRACK
It's been four years since Riverbank High's boys basketball team has finished a season with a winning record, but Bruin junior Zack Gonzales has seen his fair share of success, and firmly believes the talented group of players on the 2009-10 Riverbank squad are on the right track.

He's a good source to trust, considering last year's first team All Trans-Valley League performer was along for the ride in a 2001 Bruin season that pinnacled with a Sac-Joaquin Section Division title game at Arco Arena and ultimately an SJS banner.

"When I was a ball boy for that Arco team I saw they practice just like this team, where every practice is a grind," Gonzales said. "We have all the pieces to be a great team."

Much of Riverbank's success this season will hinge of Gonzales' ability to create scoring opportunities and convert them into points.

He led the team in points per game (around 15) last year as a sophomore running the point. This year he will slide into a shooting guard role to create more problems for opposing defenses.

With Gonzales leading a tough squadron of guards and three-sport standout Jose Moreno holding down his position in the post, Riverbank should be primed to continue the program's run of three consecutive seasons with an improved win total.

The team broke away from 5-22 and 7-21 showings in 2007 and 2008 with a 10-15 run last season. The Bruins even beat two teams that finished higher in the league standings (Ripon and Hughson) in their final four games of the season.

It's a sign of good things to come for a Bruin squad that is confident and ready for the start to the season after losing by just one point to perennial SJS power, Modesto Christian, in summer league play this year.

"I really think we have the balance and leadership to come out and compete with anyone," Riverbank coach Jeff Jennings said. "We are setting the tone to get back on track with this year's team because they work really hard.

"We have had some great practices and we have a couple young kids that will come up and compete right off the bat."

One of those youngsters is sophomore point guard Alex Reynaga, who will look to free up Gonzales for more movement without the ball and get the ball down low to the Bruins' powerful center, Moreno.

Moreno, an All-League honorable mention a year ago, could not be hungrier to be a TVL force in the paint this season. He had just a week break from football to prepare for the basketball season, and trained regardless, undergoing vigorous workouts on an exercise bike to keep his legs strong with a season on the court looming on the horizon.

It's all in preparation for a season that the Bruins seriously expect to end with a competitive run at the TVL title and possible SJS playoff appearance. The big man who nearly finished with a double-double average between points and rebounds last year will be a big part of that.

"We actually care this season, and we go to practice to battle each other and make everyone better," Moreno said. "We are going into games with a winning mindset. I think we have a playoff caliber team."

The team opened the season with a 67-39 rout of Turlock Christian on Tuesday, Nov. 24. Gonzales led the scorers with 22 points while Reynaga put up 11 from the point. Moreno added 11 while Ivan Manriquez (eight), Robert Martinez (six), Blake Costalupes (four) and Manuel Jimenez (three) chipped in points.

Riverbank led 27-10 at the half before exploding to another 40 points in the final two periods to pull well away. The sophomore team won as well, 41-22, in the season opener.

Riverbank continues its quest for a 2009-10 turnaround with the Ron Peterson Tip-Off tournament at Riverbank from Thursday to Saturday of this week.

The team opens the tourney with Waterford at 8:30 p.m. on Thursday. League play begins on January 1st, when the Bruins take on reigning SJS playoff qualifier and TVL runner-up, Ripon Christian.

"For a long time Riverbank was one of the top programs basketball-wise in the TVL, and I feel like we are getting back to the point where we are competing and in the mix for a league championship," Jennings said. "We feel like we can go out and play with anybody."