BURBANK — There's winning a game and surviving a game.
For the Bellarmine-Jefferson boys’ basketball team, Saturday's home opener against Palmdale was more of the latter than the former.
“Taking care of the basketball has been our biggest challenge so far,” Guards Coach Julian Andrade said. “Holding onto leads and playing smart is something we're going to have to learn.”
Bell-Jeff held off a fierce Falcons rally to defeat Palmdale, 72-71, as the Guards improved to 2-3 this season.
With seven minutes remaining, Bell-Jeff led Palmdale, 57-42, after a Raffy Verona bucket. But the Falcons responded with a 26-9 run to take a 68-66 lead with 90 seconds remaining.
That's when the Guards' Abid Oses went to work. The junior saw little playing time after committing four fouls in the first half. Down the stretch, though, he took over, scoring all six of his team's points in the final 90 seconds for the 72-71 victory.
Oses finished with 10 points and led the team in rebounding with eight.
“I think that we stayed in it and didn't give up,” Andrade said. “They made a good comeback. We just stayed with it and made the crucial plays at the end that made the difference.”
Bell-Jeff took an early 11-3 lead before Palmdale guard E.J. Mitchell took matters into his own hands, personally going on a 13-5 run to knot the contest at 16 early in second period.
Palmdale went up, 27-25, but the Guards closed out the first half on a 9-0 run to take a 34-27 lead into the break. Bell-Jeff built on that lead, going up by as many as 15 before Palmdale rallied.
Clark Thomas led the Guards with 23 points, including five three-pointers. He added seven rebounds.
“We all helped each other,” Thomas said, crediting the team's energy for their performance. “We all knew that one person couldn't do it. We need to kick in and help each other out.”
Parker Williams scored 16 and Verano added 12 for Bell-Jeff.
Palmdale's Jorge Zuniga led all scorers with 31 points, 17 coming in the fourth period. He knocked down seven threes. Mitchell finished with 23 points, seven rebounds and five assists.
Bell-Jeff is still playing without three contributors, at least two of which are expected to be starters. Malcolm Regisford is nursing a hip injury and Isaac Etter and Marco Escribano are waiting to be eligible after transferring.
“It's going to be interesting,” Andrade said. “It could be a great thing or it could be like we're on paper.”