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Santa Maria High School senior Joey Nevarez was adept at making 3-point shots from the left corner and the right corner during his high school career.

Though he did most of his 3-point scoring work from those areas, Nevarez buried plenty of 3's from beyond the top of the key.

For all that long distance shooting prowess, Nevarez is the Lee Central Coast Newspapers Boys All-Area MVP. Nevarez was a unanimous pick among the LCCN sports staff.

"I believe he averaged 21.6 points a game this year," said Santa Maria coach Dave Yamate. Yamate's fourth year at the helm ended with a 76-74 overtime loss at La Puente in the CIF Southern Section Division 5AAA semifinals.

The Saints beat overall top seed Garden Grove 60-53 at Garden Grove in the quarters, tagging the Argonauts with just their second loss of the year.

The divisional semifinal appearance was the best showing for a Santa Maria basketball team under Yamate, and the best showing in decades for a Santa Maria boys basketball squad.

Nevarez did more than his share in his senior year to get the Saints as far as they went. Besides all his scoring, "He averaged 3.5 rebounds a game," said Yamate.

"I thought before the season started we could make a deep run in CIF," said Nevarez. The Saints returned a lot of players from the 2017 team that went out in the second round of the playoffs.

"Joey might have led the league in scoring this year," said Yamate. "No one at the league meeting (quoted) stats that were higher than Joey's.

"(Cabrillo senior) LeAndrew Knight might have had a higher scoring average than Joey, I'm not sure. I think he averaged between 20-25 points a game."

Knight was the Los Padres League MVP.

"Joey led our team in scoring last year, too," said Yamate. "He and Blake (Truhitte) were almost right there together at the top. I believe Joey averaged 17-plus points a game and Blake averaged 15-plus."

This season, "Joey made 106 3s, this year" said Yamate. "He led our team, and I think he was in the top seven or eight in the state as far as (3-point) makes. He finished with 1,428 points for his three-year varsity career."

Yamate said that when Nevarez was a ninth grader, he played on the Santa Maria freshman team.     

The Saints finished in a tie with Santa Ynez for second place in the Los Padres League during the 2018 regular season. Cabrillo, with another unbeaten league campaign at 14-0, won another league championship.  

As for Nevarez's future plans, "I want to become a firefighter," he said.

"I'll probably move to Los Angeles and go to a junior college down there to play (basketball) and get some firefighter training. I have family down there. Just about the whole side of my dad's family is there."

Before Yamate coached at Santa Maria, he coached the Morro Bay boys basketball team for seven years.

He said Nevarez is "in the discussion," as far as being the best pure shooter Yamate has ever coached.

"I coached Dylan Royer when I was at Morro Bay," Yamate said. "Dylan played two years at Cal Poly, and he was a starter there his last year."

As a long-range shooter, Nevarez has at least one thing in common with Royer. Yamate said Royer put in a lot of work on his shooting, and so has Nevarez.

"Shooting is a skill that takes a lot of reps," said Yamate.

As Santa Maria's 3-point shooting went — the Saints were often in double digits in 3-pointers made during a game – so usually did Santa Maria's offense and, "We put in a lot of shooting reps during practice," said Yamate.

Besides, "Joey put in a lot of reps in practice, but also on his own," said Yamate. "Dylan put in a lot of reps on his shooting."

Nevarez said, "I work a lot on my shooting during the off-season, and during the season too. I work a lot on my own after practice."

The 2018 season was the Saints' last in the CIF Southern Section. Santa Maria will compete in the CIF Central Section beginning in the 2018-19 school year.