File photo:Eastmont and Wenatchee had some epic battles last season including a double overtime game. 

It will be the second season coaching the Eastmont Wildcats boys’ basketball team for George Juarez. Last season, Eastmont finished fifth in the Big 9 with a 5-7 mark. They were 10-11 overall.

The season ended with a 92-60 loss to Davis in the Big 9 district play-in game. For Juarez, year two with the boys will be much different.

“It’s a lot different than the first year when you don’t know what to expect. Even though, I had them during the summer. It’s nice because you don’t have to reintroduce too many things. It’s a much different feeling,” Juarez said.

The Wildcats return a number of key players including senior guards Oscar Calvillo (5-10) and Trey Haberlock (6-1). High flying forward, senior Isaac Wellborn (6-2) is also back.

“I have a good nucleus of kids that started for me on the varsity team last year. Additionally, I have another good group of kids coming up from a very successful JV. They were 16-4. We had a couple of kids coming into our programs as well,” Juarez said. “So a combination of those three things gives me a sense that we will be much deeper this year.”

Juarez said he has a better feel for competing in the Big 9 this season.

“Anytime you go through something for the first time, you are learning things about teams and those things. I just took it one game at a time. We did as well as we could. This year, being more familiar with our opponents will be a benefit to our team,” he said. “You get through your schedule the best you can that first year.”

In terms of hopes for the team, Juarez said he just wants his teams to play to their potential. As long as they do that, everything else generally takes care of itself. There’s no doubt, he said, they want to improve what they did last year.

The second-year coach is not planning any major changes to their playing style, but there will be some tweaks.

“Any coach will adjust it to the personnel they have. I don’t think there will be a lot of adjustments in terms of style especially with the kind of depth we have. Our intent is to have an up-tempo type game with a little more defensive pressure this year,” he said. “We would like to put more pressure on full-court and half-court. I didn’t do as much zone last year but we may use some of those options.”

The most noteworthy aspect for the Wildcats this season is the fact they play seven games at home and 13 away. Juarez said no coach would comment positively on that.

“I know there is something to be said about playing in another environment. I think that prepares your team for other things down the road. Either way, we will go into every game with the intent to do the best we can. I wish we had a few more home games. It doesn’t do any good to complain,” he said.

Eastmont opens the season on Saturday with a game at Cashmere. They play at Mead on Friday, Dec. 6. The Wildcats open league play on Saturday, Dec. 14 at home against Eisenhower.

Ian Dunn: 664-7157