The CIF Southern Section boys’ basketball playoffs don’t begin
until next week.
However when Bellarmine-Jefferson High hosted L.A. Salesian High
Monday night in a Santa Fe League contest, the intention was to
create a playoff-type atmosphere.
The Guards, who have scraped together victories much of the
season, came up short, 58-56.
“There are two things that don’t last in this world -- dogs that
chase cars and teams that don’t hit free throws,” Bell-Jeff Coach
Eli Essa said. “This was the game. I wrote on the chalkboard [before
the game] ‘This is your first playoff game, and you have to win to
Had the Guards (10-12, 2-7 in league) defeated Salesian, they
would have obtained the 11 wins needed to get into the Southern
Section playoffs as a wild card.
But the loss forces the Guards to defeat L.A. Daniel Murphy --
ranked No. 4 in Division IVAA -- at 7 p.m. tonight to get their 11th
win. In their first league meeting on Jan. 29, Bell-Jeff was defeated
by the Nobles, 73-34.
Essa said the game against the Mustangs came down to his team not
being able to convert its free throws. The Guards made 15 of 31
attempts from the line.
“This team isn’t blessed with great shooters, and that translates
to poor free-throw shooting,” Essa said.
Clarence Viray, Bell-Jeff’s leading scorer with 16 points a game,
missed his third consecutive game with a separated left shoulder.
“Clarence was our only consistent shooter,” Essa said. “I told
the guys we’ve improved in every facet except for one this season,
and that is free-throw shooting. When you miss 16 free throws, and
lose by two [it’s frustrating].”
Despite the sting of the defeat, Essa said 10 wins is more than
many expected from a team, which entered the season with just three
returning players -- none of whom were starters -- and had to deal
with injuries to its two top athletes.
Guard starter Brian Alfaro was out of action for more than two
weeks after suffering ligament damage to his right ankle.
Alfaro returned to play against Salesian (4-20, 3-6), contributing
10 points and four rebounds. .
Shant Keurjekian paced the Guards with a game-high 16 points.
Salesian 7 22 9 20 -- 58
Bell-Jeff 7 7 24 18 -- 56
Cervantes 11, Cross 10, Arroyo 8, Phegley 6, Pineda 2, Sherrills
13, Quijada 8.
* Three-pointers: Sherrills 3, Cervantes 3, Cross.
Keurjekian 19 and 6 steals, Perrin 10, Issai 3, Caampued 2, Aranda
2, Doyle 10 and 10 rebounds, Alfaro 10.
* Three-pointers: Keurjekian.