WOODLAND HILLS — For Bellarmine-Jefferson High boys’ basketball, the summer is a time to gain experience, work in new players and learn lessons about what it will take to succeed on the floor in the upcoming high school season.
“Nobody is coming into summer ball trying to win a championship game,” Guards assistant Eddie Miller said. “We’ve got a lot of sophomores and freshmen playing right now. One thing that coach Julian [Andrade] and I were trying to work out is the kinks, get them comfortable with executing.”
The Guards’ summer curriculum continued against El Camino Real as both squads finished up pool play as part of the annual War on the Floor tournament at Los Angeles Pierce College Friday evening. It turned out to be a hard lesson. Bell-Jeff was overwhelmed on both sides of the floor, losing, 65-23, to a lanky Conquistador squad that played crisply throughout, in contrast to the Guards, who are still struggling to find their way.
“The tempo is a little uncomfortable for us,” Miller, who acted as the head coach against El Camino Real, said. “[A lot of guys have been] playing JV, so varsity guys are stronger and guys are bigger, so they’re having a tough time adjusting to it, but that is what summer ball is all about.”
Bell-Jeff never led in the contest and was limited to four field goals in each half. The Guards struggled to move the ball up the court or operate in the half-court against the suffocating defense of El Camino Real. The Guards, playing without Malcolm Regisford, who is away visiting colleges, did have eight players score.
“We’re really trying to get our upperclassman, Abid Oses and Clark Thomas, who is over as a new addition, to carry the team,” Miller said. “We’ve got a real young team and, if we’re not careful, it’s going to be the blind leading the blind. So really [we need] our older guys to step up and lead the team.”
They were led by Abid Oses with five points. The junior-to-be also had his team’s two assists, one of which went to incoming senior transfer from Pacifica Christian Miles Hopkins, who was one of two Guards with four points.
“We are coming together game by game with this new team,” Oses said. “We’ve got to keep working.”
El Camino Real seized control early with a nine-point burst to a break a 2-2 tie. Hopkins scored Bell-Jeff’s final points of the first half, which was 21 minutes of running clock, on an offensive rebound and put back with just over seven minutes to go. The Conquistadors then went on a, 11-0 run to finish the half and led, 35-8, at half.
The Conquistadors kept their foot on the gas in the second half, with the advantage peaking at 45 points. They had a 15-0 burst that included three makes from beyond the arc. The only thing that slowed El Camino Real was when Bell-Jeff got into the bonus with around seven minutes to go, allowing them to sneak points up onto the scoreboard without having to deal with the long arms of the Conquistadors. In total, seven of Bell-Jeff’s 15 second-half points came from the charity strip, with five coming down the stretch courtesy of fouls in the backcourt as El Camino Real reserves continued to aggressively pursue the ball.
Friday evening’s game against El Camino Real wraps up play for Bell-Jeff in pool play, which also includes Simi Valley and Ribet Academy. Next for the Guards will be a consolation game later this weekend.
“The lesson I think today that I’m going to talk to my guys about is always playing hard,” Miller said. “It doesn’t matter who you play against. Those guys put their shorts on like we do, one leg at a time. The game stays the same. You have to block out, you have to hit your free throws, you have to capitalize off the other team’s mistakes and that’s what the young guys aren’t doing right now. That will be the lesson for today.”