BURBANK — The Bellarmine-Jefferson High boys’ basketball team has had to deal with its share of adversity this season.
Under new Coach Julian Andrade, the Guards took some time to click as a squad. Things also didn’t go well during Santa Fe League play, either, as some of the Bell-Jeff players fell ill, were kicked off the team, were suspended or were reprimanded for other disciplinary reasons.
“I could write a book with all the things we’ve had to deal with this season. It’s been nonstop,” Andrade said. “The coaches would come to practice and ask ourselves ‘What is it going to be today?’ ”
Despite the problems, the team held together and achieved a remarkable accomplishment. With a 63-58 win Thursday evening at host St. Genevieve, Bell-Jeff captured the Santa Fe League championship.
It is the program’s first league title in 13 years.
“For what we’ve been through, and for these kids to be able to step up and win a league title — it’s amazing,” Andrade said.
Andrade, a former Bell-Jeff assistant coach, said he runs a tight ship, and he required his players to adhere to a certain code. If they weren’t able to follow the rules, they had to suffer the consequences. Through it all, however, there was a group of Guards players who stayed positive, as Bell-Jeff fought for a league championship.
“I have been coaching for a long time and I’ve never felt this proud about any of my teams in my life,” Andrade said. “Dealing with what they went through, they really never gave up.”
The Guards (12-12, 7-1 in league) — who finished league one game ahead of St. Genevieve (14-9, 6-2) — received a fine game from senior Micah Shirley. Shirley poured in 24 points, picking up his game in the second half.
Guards’ sophomore C.J. Reyes got the start, and he didn’t disappoint. Reyes scored 17 points — including five three-pointers — to help the Bell-Jeff cause.
Reyes scored 11 points in the second quarter to help the Guards outscore the Valiants, 20-13, in the stanza.
Bell-Jeff led at the half, 35-29.
The Guards will now wait to see how far they can progress in the CIF Southern Section playoffs, which begin next week.
“Whatever happens after this point, the kids can always look back and say they won a league championship,” Andrade said.