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Boys’ Basketball: Los Alamitos edges Edison, 56-54

(Kevin Chang | HB Independent)

In a big game, it’s not uncommon for a big player to step up, or a big shot to fall. Such was the case Friday when Edison and Los Alamitos squared off in a key Sunset League boys’ basketball game where the outcome would hold huge ramifications.

The big player to hit the big shot in this showdown was Pepe Garcia of Los Alamitos.

The 6-foot-4 senior guard got the ball with under 30 seconds to play, took a step just outside the three-point line at the top-right side of the key, and launched his shot. It appeared Garcia’s shot was on target but short, yet it hit the front of the rim, bounced up and danced around, then fell down and through the net with 21 seconds to play.

His three-pointer, the game-winner, gave Los Alamitos the lead. The Griffins withstood one final shot attempt by Edison to emerge with a 56-54 victory before a full house at Edison’s Dave Mohs Gymnasium.

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Garcia even thought his shot was short of the mark.

It was his only three-point shot in the game.

“It sure didn’t feel real comfortable when I let it go but somehow, it went through,” he said, relieved but happy to have hit the shot that would give the Griffins the important victory. “I’m just very excited right now and happy for my team.”

Edison called two timeouts on its final possession, the last of which came with 11.6 seconds left. Junior guard Nate Matthews sent his inbounds pass to David Atencio at the top of the Edison key, and the sophomore guard drove the lane toward the basket. He put up a shot that went off the rim and backboard, then the ball went to the floor and off an Edison player and out of bounds with .3 seconds on the clock.

The Griffins were able to inbound the ball to end the game.

“Any time you can beat Edison at their place, it’s a good win,” Los Alamitos Coach Eddie Courtemarche said. “This was a great game. [Edison] went up eight, but Eyassu [Worku] and Pepe [Garcia] brought us back. We went down about eight points again, and they again brought us back.”

Edison and Los Alamitos shared the Sunset League title last year. With its win Friday, Los Alamitos, ranked No. 9 in CIF Southern Section Division 1AA, took a major step toward an outright championship. With four league games remaining, the Griffins hold a two-game edge on their league rivals. They improved to 6-0 in league and 19-3 overall.

Edison had a chance to move into a tie for first place with a win over the Griffins. Instead, the loss put the Chargers, ranked second in CIF-SS Division 2AA, at 4-2 in league and 18-5 overall.

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Los Alamitos won the league opener between the teams on its home floor Jan. 8, 61-51.

“We played hard and we played well, and I can’t fault the effort of my guys,” Edison Coach Rich Boyce said. “They gave a tremendous effort. But, there were little things here and there that we could have done better and had we, it could have been a different outcome.”

In a game where the teams traded leads throughout, Edison, which led by as many as eight points (38-30) late in the third quarter, held a 40-35 lead heading into the fourth quarter. Los Alamitos, which scored first and within the first minute in each of the first three quarters, did so again to start the fourth quarter. Worku, a senior guard headed for UC Irvine, came up with a steal and layup just 13 seconds into the quarter. The play started a 7-0 run for the Griffins that took them to a 42-40 lead.

Worku and Garcia both hit three-point plays to allow the Griffins to maintain the lead, with Garcia’s basket and foul shot putting his team in front, 50-47, with 2:39 remaining. Twenty seconds later, Matthews netted a three-point shot to tie the score.

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Worku, who was perfect from the foul line, hit two free throws with 2:23 to go to put Los Alamitos on top, 52-50. Edison would regain the lead (53-52) on a free throw by senior forward Garrett White and two free throws by junior guard Randall Walker, but a free throw by Griffins sophomore forward Jacob Eyman tied the score for the final time.

White put Edison back on top by hitting a free throw with 48 seconds left. On Los Alamitos’ next possession, the Griffins called timeout with 34 seconds to go and 20 seconds left on the shot clock. Moments later, Garcia hit the winning shot.

Except for the final score, Edison held the lead at the end of the first three quarters. The Chargers scored 10 unanswered points to open up a 10-2 lead in the first quarter which ended with them up, 12-10. They scored the final seven points of the second quarter to wipe out a five-point Los Alamitos lead, the largest of the game for the Griffins, which allowed them to take a 26-24 lead into the locker room at the half.

Worku and Garcia combined for 43 of Los Alamitos’ 56 points. Worku, who scored 31 points and became his school’s career scoring leader in the process in the first meeting between the teams earlier in the month, again scored 31 points. Garcia finished with 12 points.

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Edison’s guard trio of Walker, Matthews and Atencio, combined for 48 of Edison’s 54 points. Walker led the way with 19 points. Matthews hit four three-pointers and finished with 16 points, and Atencio, who had a big third quarter, scored 13 points.

Friday Scoreboard

Boys’ Basketball

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Sunset League

Los Alamitos 56, Edison 54

Huntington Beach 61, Marina 50

Newport Harbor 38, Fountain Valley 36

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Golden West League

Ocean View 78, Segerstrom 44


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