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Cougars cruising through PAL

Close-knit St. Joseph’s sixth grade squad has plenty of fun along the way
By: Todd Mordhorst Journal Sports Editor
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Coach Francois Barbe’ has made the St. Joseph’s sixth grade basketball team’s mascot a big part of the team’s terminology. He’s named plays after the Cougars’ prey and loves to see his team execute and devour the competition. But unlike wild cougars, who prefer solitude, the St. Joseph’s squad shares a special bond that has carried them to remarkable success. “They’re like a band of brothers,” Barbe’ said of the Cougars, who are 15-1 with one game left in Parochial Athletic League play. “They go at each other and really battle in practice an then they go and take it out on other teams. They’ve got a great bond.” Most of the St. Joseph’s squad has played together for much of grade school. Now in the competitive PAL, which includes teams from all over the Sacramento area, they’re thriving on the competition. “In fifth grade we were undefeated, but we were playing against (recreational) teams,” said Michael Beachley, the team’s 5-10 standout post player. “This year it’s more challenging and we’re playing more games.” True challenges have been tough to find for the Cougars, who often lead by double figures just minutes into the game. Their only loss came in the championship game of a tournament early in the season. They’ve won two tournament titles and have wrapped up the top seed in their division as the PAL playoffs approach. “Everybody’s had a chance to start at least one game and everybody’s scored,” Barbe’ said. Speedy Luc Barbe’ is a tough player in the post alongside Beachley. Guards Jade Sotelo and Danny Erum are great shooters and Isaiah Garcia is a defensive pest. Logan Markstein is a great rebounding presence. Sotelo runs the offense as the point guard and he said the team’s chemistry is key. “We’ve just been working as a team and we always make good passes,” Sotelo said. “We’ve been getting better at shooting.” The St. Joseph’s squad will play together for two more years. Once they reach high school, the players will head their separate ways — some to Placer High, some to Del Oro and some to Jesuit in Sacramento. Until then, the Cougars plan on doing a lot more feasting. “We just work as a team,” Beachley said. “Our ball movement and our screens are really important for us. And our defense — that’s the key.”