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Shooting woes cost Bell-Jeff

Jim Riggio

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

advance.’ ”

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.