In the formative years for a kid playing sports, being substantially taller than everyone else doesn’t necessarily equate to an advantage.
Just ask Ethan Marmie. The 6-foot-7 Sobrato High junior forward had his fair share of growing pains as it took a while for him to get in sync with his ever-growing body.
“It was horrible, honestly,” Marmie said after the Bulldogs’ 67-49 win over Live Oak High on Jan. 26. “It took me a long time to build up to my athleticism. I had a lot of knee pain and was always hurting when I played, but just had to play through it because it wasn’t a (substantially) serious injury. So I had to go through a lot of growing pains and once I kind of got into my body, that’s when I started to outshine everyone.”
Marmie poured in 26 points in the victory over Sobrato’s crosstown rivals, including five 3-pointers. He repeatedly got open beyond the arc and was able to get shots off under little duress.
“I was playing the same game I do every game,” he said. “I get more open shots against different teams and tonight was one of those games where I got a lot of open looks.”
Live Oak has a terrific big man of its own in senior center Gus Giba, who finished with a career-high 30 points. Giba’s work rate is incredible as he is constantly in motion and battling for post position or working to get open outside the lane.
He utilized his entire skill set against Sobrato, whether it was catching the ball at the elbow area and then driving to the basket, hitting short turnaround jumpers, corralling rebounds in traffic or connecting on shots from in-close amid a handful of defenders.
“Gus works hard and he knows from experience what it takes to win a basketball game,” Acorns coach Randy Bartholomew said. “So he’s always going to work and I have the utmost faith in him he’s going to come play every single game.”
The Bulldogs effectively put this one away early, starting the game on a 18-2 blitz. Live Oak couldn’t crack Sobrato’s zone which was compounded by the fact it misfired on some relatively open shots from the outside. Meanwhile, the Bulldogs were crashing the boards hard and scored on several putbacks during the opening run.
“It felt like a gut punch and it’s tough to recover, especially when you’re looking at the scoreboard and you’re down 15-2,” Bartholomew said. “The guys were excited at the beginning, and then they came out flat.”
Sobrato coach Sean Tate was back on the bench after missing the previous two contests due to Covid protocols. He commended the program’s frosh-soph coaches Kal Chak, Klein Nguyen and Darryl Fowler for sharing the varsity duties and not missing a beat.
“They stepped in and we continued to run like clockwork,” Tate said. “The last two games if we didn’t have this coaching staff, it could’ve easily been two losses. It’s a testament to them and the players.”
Marc Difrancesco had 15 points and Jayden Fowler 13 for the Bulldogs, who entered the week tied with Oak Grove atop the Blossom Valley League Santa Teresa East Division standings with 4-1 records. While Difrancesco and Fowler have been solid all season, 6-8 Michael Chambers started slow but has come on strong in the last several weeks.
“Michael has come a long way,” Tate said. “He’s definitely formidable now and you can’t just sleep on him because he’ll make you play. He’s got a motor, works hard and the next thing you know you look up and he’s getting the rebound and putting it in.”
Steven Rosenberger was the only other Live Oak player to reach double figures with 10 points. Giba carried the Acorns on his back for this one, finishing an excellent 12-of-19 shooting (63 percent) from the floor. Marmie also shot well, finishing 9-of-18 from the field.
Bartholomew knows it’s gut-check time for his team. Live Oak is still in the hunt for a league title, but it has to tighten up its game and clean up all the little mistakes to finish strong.
“In the locker room after the game we all went around and said what we needed to say, and hopefully we come back for the second half of the season because we still have a chance at this,” he said.
The Bulldogs are optimistic their best is yet to come. They’re expecting the return of their outstanding point guard, Andrew Zorio, and Marmie has been playing particularly well of late.
“Ethan has been on a three-game tear averaging 24, 25 points a game,” Tate said. “He’s got the green light and is shooting within the offense, in rhythm, off the catch, just good stuff. One dribble and a pull-up jumper, stuff like that. That’s all you can ask for from all the players is to play within the offense and we’ll be fine.”
Especially if Marmie comes close to keeping up his current production. Marmie said it was only entering his sophomore season where he really started to feel comfortable in his frame, and the results bore that out as he had a solid 2021 spring season.
“I started getting a little more athletic, I could jump higher, I could move a little faster and get around the court more easily,” he said.
Sports editor Emanuel Lee can be reached at [email protected] and (831) 886-0471, ext. 3958.