LIVERMORE — Granada’s guard Tyler Harris and center Andrew McKeever do a delicate balancing act when they share the court.
Harris thrives as a downhill slasher who gets to the rim, something he did repeatedly on his way to 24 points in the Matadors’ 63-36 non-league home win over Priory on Friday night.
But McKeever, all 6-foot-11 of him, is best utilized in that very same space, where he can bury defenders on his back before jump-hooking them into the dust.
Despite this, the two Granada stars have learned how to coexist. The St. Mary’s commit McKeever sometimes vacated the block to give Harris space on Friday night, and Harris returned the favor by spacing out to the perimeter to draw a defender out of the lane for his center.
“When he sees me driving, he knows to get out of the way, but if he stays there, I always know I can throw it up to him,” Harris said.
When the two were clicking, as they did in the second half, the Matadors looked every bit like a team that could contend for the East Bay Athletic League championship.
The duo combined for 42 points against a previously-unbeaten Priory (13-1), and their ability to repeat those kinds of performances will determine how Granada does in a league that boasts seven teams in the Bay Area News Group Top 20 rankings.
“I think this is the best the EBAL has been since I’ve been around,” coach Quaran Johnson said. “I don’t know if there are any slack-off teams.”
Granada, ranked No. 8, had a 29-17 lead at halftime, but Johnson was less than pleased with his team’s play. Although McKeever had hooked and layuped his way to 11 first-half points in a physical matchup with Priory’s 6-10 junior Nes Emeneke, the rest of the team looked lethargic.
While Rostand Olama Abanda and his 13 points kept No. 14 Priory in the game, the Matadors seemed to just go through the motions.
In the halftime locker room, Johnson had a simple message for his senior guard.
“I was being soft in the first half,” Harris admitted. “Coach got onto me, so I picked it up.”
Harris answered his coach’s call, putting in 20 of his 24 points after the break. Instead of settling for jumpshots, Harris cut into Priory’s paint and dunked three times in the second half.
Granada’s intensity waxed as Priory’s waned. After 13 straight wins to start the season, coach David Moseley was able to pinpoint a weakness during the loss that the Panthers loss.
Priory has a few days to address before the league opener at Sacred Heart Prep on Tuesday.
“We have to condition, because we looked like we were a little out of shape,” Moseley said. “We have to improve that so we can start to press and get our points back up.”
The Matadors last non-league test is Saturday at perennial Sacramento powerhouse Sheldon, which is far better than its 5-9 record would indicate. The back-to-back challenges are intended to give Granada one last chance to correct any flaws before it starts league play at 12-4 Foothill.
If Harris and McKeever can continue to sharpen their chemistry during the gauntlet of EBAL heavyweights, the Matadors (12-3) have as good a chance as any of conquering the league.
“This is what league is gonna be like,” Johnson said. “I told my kids that we have to prepare for a good team, and then get ready to go and battle an even better team the next day.”