Bellarmine-Jefferson High boys’ basketball Coach Eli Essa had some
concerns for his team Friday when it faced L.A. Cathedral High in the
Bell-Jeff Holiday Classic.
Having seen Cathedral play the night before, Essa was worried that
the Phantoms’ outside shooting could give his team problems.
But everything that Essa expected didn’t happen, as the Guards
rolled to a 75-55 victory in their own tournament at Bell-Jeff.
The win puts the Guards (4-1) in the semifinals at 6 p.m. tonight
“They were shooting the lights out,” Essa said of Cathedral when
the Phantoms fell to Van Nuys High, 69-68. “Our concern was their
outside shooting and controlling the boards.”
Neither was much of a problem for the hosts, as Cathedral went
cold in the first half, scoring just 15 points, as Bell-Jeff jumped
out to a 40-15 halftime advantage.
“This game started out real quick for us,” said Bell-Jeff center
Brian Alfaro, who finished with 12 points and 10 rebounds. “We really
moved the ball around well.”
Bell-Jeff jumped out an 11-2 advantage to start the game, and led,
24-7, at the end of the first quarter, as Cathedral never posed a
After the Guards led, 59-24, after three quarters, Essa elected to
give Alfaro and Brendon Doyle a full quarter of rest.
Doyle finished with 27 points and 11 rebounds. The three-sport
standout equaled Cathedral’s team scoring output in the first half,
and actually held a three-point advantage when he left the game.
Robert Alarcon, Bell-Jeff’s third inside presence, had 14 points
and eight rebounds.
“We went to a 3-2 zone and with Brendon in the middle. We weren’t
giving them shots from the top of the key,” Essa said.
Cathedral (3-4), which won the 14th annual Paul Sutton Tip-Off
Classic last week, played without two of its starters, who were
injured. One of the sidelined athletes was 6-foot-4 post player
Eight players scored for the Guards, showing that the bench had
some key contributors.
George Movsessian had seven points off the bench and Vazzie
Mekhsian had six.
Alfaro, who is in his third year on the varsity team, said he
isn’t surprised with the quick start the Guards have had this season.
“Almost all of us have played together for the past four years,
and we know each others’ roles,” Alfaro said.
Essa said he was surprised with how quickly his team is executing
its offense, given two of his starting players -- Alfaro and Alarcon
-- are best known for their exploits on the football field as
offensive linemen, and who both weigh more than 270 pounds
“We had to try to establish a fast break and we did that,” Essa
Cathedral finally started to shoot the ball well in the fourth
quarter, when Bell-Jeff went to its bench.
Carlos Casas, who finished with a team-high 24 points, as he hit
five of his six three-pointers in the fourth quarter when he scored
19 of his points.
The Phantoms outscored Bell-Jeff, 31-16, in a wild fourth quarter.
Bell-Jeff defeated Van Nuys, 56-53, in their first game in the
tournament on Wednesday.
Beginning the season with four wins in its first five games is
important for the Guards, who came one win away from the 11 needed to
secure a CIF Southern Section playoffs spot, and were left out of the
Burroughs 58, L.A. University 52: The Indians earned a spot in
today’s championship semifinals with a win Friday in the Bell-Jeff
The Indians battled back from an eight-point deficit at the half.