It was a consolation game that was used as filler between the last semifinal contest of the tournament and the championship.
But the Bellarmine-Jefferson High and Sylmar boys’ basketball teams were just as passionate in their final game of the 17th annual War on the Floor Tournament at L.A. Pierce College as any other team that played in the championship rounds.
In a physical game that included an ejection of a Sylmar player and plenty of pushing and shoving underneath the basket, Sylmar prevailed, thanks to an early eight-point cushion.
Bell-Jeff started slowly and couldn’t recover, falling, 52-51, on Sunday.
“A game is a game, no matter what it is,” said Bell-Jeff guard Gio Gabb, who had a team-high 12 points. “We were trying to work hard to win.”
The Guards played hard down the stretch, as they nearly overcame a nine-point deficit in the waning minutes. They benefited after Sylmar called consecutive timeouts, a technical violation that resulted in two Gabb free-throws that cut Sylmar’s lead to four. Gabb stole the ball on the next Sylmar possession and hit a three-pointer with three seconds to play, but with a running clock, Sylmar didn’t need to inbound the ball, and won the game.
“We had to work hard, push through, work as a team, and play defense,” Gabb said.
Bell-Jeff struggled in the first half, as it missed its first seven shots — while Sylmar made four of its first seven — and didn’t make a field goal until 10 minutes elapsed.
By the time Bell-Jeff hit a field goal, a floater by Abid Oses, Sylmar had a 10-point lead that the Guards didn’t cut into until it was too late.
Oses was also part of the physical play in the first half, when he was pushed to the floor, resulting in an ejection of the Sylmar starting center.
Bell-Jeff remained disciplined until the end, and used the game as a learning experience. Will Morales had 11 points, Oses had 10 and Adam Gupilan had seven for the Guards.
“We have to get a lot of work in,” said Guard assistant coach Shawn Bankhead, who was filling in for Coach Julian Andrade, who was on vacation. “We have to go back to the basics. To me, this is a learning process.”