Seizing on experience and improving everyday are John Zumbrun’s early goals for the Carlsbad Cavemen basketball team in 2023.
The Cavemen lost the season opener Nov. 21 46-45 on a last second shot by Albuquerque El Dorado at Carlsbad High School as Zumbrun ushered in his third season as the boys’ basketball head coach.
He coached the Cavegirls to 238 wins during a 12-year stint that ended in 2020 when he accepted the boy’s job as Steve Garza resigned in early September.
Zumbrun coached the Cavemen to an 8-4 record during a shortened season in the spring of 2021 as fall and winter sports were cancelled in 2020 across New Mexico due to COVID-19 safety restrictions. Sports schedules were shifted to the spring and summer of last year.
The Cavemen finished the 2022 basketball season with a 23-7 record and lost in the state basketball playoffs to Albuquerque Volcano Vista.
This year, Zumbrun has 12 seniors on the squad as the Cavemen seek a return to the postseason.
“We feel we have an experienced team as long as we keep working and striving our goal is to hopefully make a (postseason) run at the end,” he said.
Zumbrun said the Cavemen have plenty of depth on this year’s squad. Damian Perez a 6-foot-5 point guard is expected to lead the team on the court this season.
In the season opener against El Dorado, he scored 21 points and last year he scored 17 points per game.
“He definitely makes the team go,” Zumbrun said.
He said 5-foot-11 guard Ismael Chavez, 6-foot-3 guard Devin McWright and Garren Gossett, a 6-foot-5 power forward/center were expected as key contributors during the season.
Pre-district schedule loaded with big name schools
The Cavemen will be facing some teams that saw action in the state playoffs, including the team that won the 5A title last season.
Carlsbad traveled to Las Cruces High Tuesday and played a Bulldawg team that finished second last year in the state 5A basketball tournament.
The Cavemen have a pair of out-of-town tournaments in December including the City of Champions Classic in Artesia Dec. 1 through 3 and the Cleveland Tournament in Rio Rancho Dec. 8 through 10.
A week after the Cleveland Tournament, Carlsbad returns to the Albuquerque area Dec. 16 and Dec. 17 with games at Rio Rancho and Volcano Vista.
The Rams were 16-11 last season and lost to the Cavemen 49-47 in the opening round of the state tournament.
The game at Volcano Vista could be considered a revenge game as the Hawks knocked Carlsbad out of the state tournament with a 69-29 win. Volcano Vista won the 5A title over Las Cruces High.
“We’ve got to build up on what we did last year,” Zumbrun said. “We know we’ve got a good team with us it’s about playing at the right time at the end. What’s in the past is the past. We’ve got to be playing our best ball at the end.”
Carlsbad starts District 5-4A play Jan. 24 at Clovis and ends the regular season Feb. 17 at home against Hobbs.
The Cavemen finished last season in second place behind the Eagles. Clovis was third and Roswell High was last.