BARSTOW - There is good reason if there's a hint of gray in Mark Hassell's fro.

The Barstow High School boys basketball coach watched his team play well, but drop two straight games in the final minutes last week.

There was no such tension Tuesday night.

Hassell could kick back, relax and preserve his youth by halftime at Don Bilsborough Gymnasium. The Barstow boys basketball beat Burroughs High School 71-43.

The game was never close as Barstow opened the game on a 24-3 run. Burroughs (7-13; 2-4 Desert Sky League) didn't hit a 2-point field goal until almost three minutes into the second half.

The win puts the playoffs within reach for Barstow with two more league games remaining. Barstow moved into a tie with Burroughs for third place. The top three teams advance to the playoffs. Barstow faces DSL-cellar-dweller Silverado on Thursday and closes out the season against first-place Victor Valley on Feb. 7. Burroughs closes out its league schedule with games against Granite Hills and Silverado.

With a win finally in hand, Hassell is still short on answers.

With a 39-11 lead at half, the Aztecs (7-15 ; 2-4 DSL) almost reached their point total from their first matchup against the Burros, when they lost Burroughs 66-46 on Jan. 8.

"We played horrendously the first time - absolutely horrendously," Hassell said. "We just played better (today).

"There's no magic pill or formula," Hassell said. "I've been telling them all season, `There's nothing I can say that's going to magically make you understand it. All I can do is draw up plays and work on defenses. It's up to you guys to be able to implement those' and they did."

Barstow nearly pulled a win out against High Desert powerhouse Serrano on
Jan. 22. Barstow led most of the game, avenging a 33-point loss in the second game of the season. The Aztecs took a momentum boost out of the game despite losing 84-80. Barstow followed up the effort with another close loss against Granite Hills. The Aztecs took a lead into the final quarter and eventually lost 58-50 on Thursday.

"We've been playing - I'll say - with a whole lot more intensity, We haven't been playing a whole lot better. We're playing a lot smarter and with a whole lot more intensity."

Barstow effortlessly knocked down shots in the first half and swarmed the Burros on defense. When Burros got off shots, the Aztecs were quick to grab rebounds and take off on fast breaks.

"Confidence is a big thing, especially for young players," Hassell said. "If it's LeBron James and he misses a couple shots, he's not going to lose his confidence. With these kids, if they miss a couple shots everything is, `Whoa is me' and they turn into Eeyore all of a sudden."

Contact the writer:
(760) 256-4124 or
matthew_peters@link.freedom.com