With its coach dismissed, two top players declared ineligible and the rest of the players uncertain about the future, a once promising Fremont basketball season had entered the abyss.
“I was devastated at first,” said standout sophomore forward Chris Page, whose brother and cousin were declared ineligible. “It couldn’t have been worse.”
Enter Danny Williams, a former three-sport standout for the Pathfinders. He was coaching the girls’ team, then took over the boys’ team, and in his first game, Fremont lost to Crenshaw by 15 points on Dec. 7.
Fast forward to Tuesday afternoon at Fremont. The Pathfinders moved into a tie for first place in the Coliseum League by defeating Crenshaw 68-61. It was a show of perseverance and determination by all involved.
“It feels great,” sophomore guard Mike Schnyder said. “We’ve worked hard even through the things that went wrong. We improved as a team. We learned each other’s skills.”
Said Williams: “We’re making a statement to the City.”
Senior guard Chris Bradford rose up in the fourth quarter to put a halt to a Crenshaw comeback. The Cougars trailed by 21 points in the third quarter and got as close as five points. But Bradford, who finished with 17 points, had eight points in the fourth quarter to frustrate the Cougars (12-11, 6-1).
Fremont (12-7, 6-1) received 17 points from Page, 14 points from Kobe Craig and 11 points from Schnyder. Crenshaw was without standout guard Shedrick Lockridge. Steven Ebiriekwe scored 18 points, Kevin Bradley 13 points and Kaelin Petty 12 points. Fremont is 12-3 under Williams.
“I didn’t know him,” Bradford said of Williams. “Man, he’s done wonderful.”
Fremont still faces the challenge of having to defeat View Park Prep in consecutive games later this week if it wants to earn at least a share of the league title, but the Pathfinders are truly believing in themselves.
“We can beat any team,” Bradford said.
In other games, Drake London scored 17 points in Moorpark’s 66-65 win over Oak Park. Clark Slajchert scored 31 points for Oak Park.
Bryce Howard and Kyle MacLean each scored 18 points in Westlake’s 71-61 win over Newbury Park.
Camarillo wrapped up the Coastal Canyon League championship with an 84-47 win over Simi Valley. Jaime Jaquez had 29 points and 13 rebounds.
Warren won its first San Gabriel Valley League title since 2013 with a 57-55 win over Downey. Tre’mond Johnson scored 22 points.
Windward defeated Campbell Hall 62-47. Devin Tillis scored 20 points. Jonny Garnett had 19 points for Campbell Hall.
Sierra Canyon defeated Paraclete 78-46. Cassius Stanley had 17 points.
Highland defeated Knight 71-55. Damian Guest Jr. finished with 20 points and Julian Williams and Justin Hill added 17 points apiece.
Valencia defeated Golden Valley 79-50. Jake Hlywiak scored 17 points. Valencia is 21-5 and 9-0 in the Foothill League.
Calabasas defeated Oaks Christian 71-54 to win the Marmonte League title, its fourth in a row. Max Cheylov scored 24 points, Evan McKay 19 and Ramel Lloyd 17.
Heritage Christian is the Olympic League champion after a 71-60 win over Maranatha. Noah Fernando scored 20 points and Dillon Depina 19. Heritage Christian is 23-5 and 8-0.
La Habra defeated Sonora 57-56 on a three-point basket by Cameron Dashiell at the buzzer.
Joel Pastrana of La Verne Calvary Baptist made 23 three-pointers and scored 70 points in a 104-48 win over Redlands Grove. The 23 threes is a Southern Section record.
Jarod Lucas of Los Altos scored 49 points in a 90-48 win over South Hills. Lucas has 3,233 career points. The all-time record holder is Casey Jacobsen of Glendora with 3,284.