Joey Nevarez liked to launch 3-point shots from the corner in his sophomore season.

The Santa Maria junior liked to launch 3-point shots from the corner his junior season too. He also liked to shoot them from the wing. He could also dribble drive and either pull up and shoot or pass to an open teammate.

A more versatile Nevarez helped make for a more productive Nevarez. As a result, he is the Lee Central Coast News Boys All-Area Basketball Team's Most Improved Player, selected by the LCCN sports staff.

"I've been working on it," Nevarez said of his 3-point stroke. "I shot some from the corners, mostly from the wing."

Nevarez started honing his shot before pre-season workouts. "I worked on my shot during the summer," he said.

The work paid off for the Saints. "I haven't looked at the stats yet, but either Joey or (point guard) Blake Truhitte is our leading scorer," said Santa Maria coach Dave Yamate.

"Joey's averaging around 15 points a game. He's probably our leading 3-point shooter. It's either him or Blake." Nevarez averaged 11.3 points a game last season.

Yamate said, "Joey has been penetrating with the ball more and that has opened up other guys' 3's as well as his own 3.

"We have three guys averaging in double figures, and it's actually pretty close to four. There are four other guys (at any time on the floor) who can shoot the 3, not just Joey. A defense can't just concentrate on one guy."

Nevarez is a shooting guard. In fact, "We're all pretty much guards," said Nevarez. Before the season started Yamate, with a chuckle, said the same thing about his players.

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Characteristically, the Saints don't have much height.

What they do have is a lot of productive 3-point shooters. "We made 329 3s last year," said Yamate. "I'm pretty sure that was between first or second in the state. I haven't checked, but I'm pretty sure we're close to that this year."

The 3-point shot, "is something we work on a lot in practice," said Yamate. "We put in a lot of reps."

The Saints also put up a lot of shots. The shot clock is usually merely a formality for Santa Maria's guys. They seemingly are never in danger of a shot clock violation.

Santa Maria finished fifth in the Los Padres League and made the most of its at-large berth in the playoffs. The Saints defeated Pomona Garey 79-64 at Garey in the first round of the CIF Southern Section 4A Playoffs.

"It was good," said Nevarez. "We worked hard and got a win."