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Phantoms don’t scare Guards

Jim Riggio

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.

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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.

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The win puts the Guards (4-1) in the semifinals at 6 p.m. tonight

against Burroughs.

“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.

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“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

serious threat.

After the Guards led, 59-24, after three quarters, Essa elected to

give Alfaro and Brendon Doyle a full quarter of rest.

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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

Phillip Sanchez.

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

said.

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

postseason.

Burroughs 58, L.A. University 52: The Indians earned a spot in

today’s championship semifinals with a win Friday in the Bell-Jeff

Holiday Classic.

The Indians battled back from an eight-point deficit at the half.


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