Bonita Takes Tournament Finals Down to Last Basket

December 31, 2009
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As time expired, Bonita fell short by a bucket.

As time expired, Bonita fell short by a bucket.

No. 1 seed Chino Hills narrowly held on to defeat Bonita High School 48-46 and win the Covina Basketball Tournament in the Northview High School gym on Wednesday night.

“I thought we played our guts out,” said Bonita coach Greg Eckler. “We played incredibly hard. I was really pleased with the effort. If not for a couple of mistakes, it could have been a different outcome.”

With the championship on the line, both teams came out a little tight before Chino Hills’ floor leader Derek Brown scored all 11 of the Huskies’ first-quarter points to give Chino Hills an 11-5 advantage after eight minutes of play.

“He came out really hot,” Eckler said, “but we just stuck with our defense.”

After being down 17-9, Bonita rattled off eight straight points to tie the game at 17-17 with tournament surprise Jordan Butler doing much of the damage on mid-range jumpers from the top of key. On the evening, Butler finished with a dozen points. “We dug in again, found a way to get some stops, make some shots and clawed our way back in,” Eckler said.

With the score tied, both teams traded baskets before Bonita took the lead 24-22. Then Chino reeled off six straight, including a couple of “garbage” baskets to lead at half-time, 28-24.

“That hurt us,” Eckler said of Chino Hills’ end-of-the-first-half surge.

Bonita made its usual strong defense stand, with from left Casey Horine, James Northup and Garrett Horine leading the way.

Bonita made its usual strong defense stand, with from left Casey Horine, James Northup and Garrett Horine leading the way.

To start the second half, both teams again played tough defense before Bonita’s C.J. Miller broke the scoring drought, pumping in four points to knot the score at 28-28. Minutes later, it was Miller again on a rebound and put-back at the buzzer to give Bonita a 34-33 lead at the end of the third quarter. Miller finished with 19 points to lead all scorers.

Early in the fourth, Chino Hills jumped back in front on back-to-back three-pointers by Michael Rodriguez and Erik Ligans, giving the Huskies a 39-34 lead that they would not surrender. Chino Hills pushed the margin to 46-38 before Bonita made one last push, including a fantastic Jordanesque drive to the basket by Butler, who also converted the free-throw to make the score 46-41. After a free throw by Bonita’s Jame Northup, who was battling flu-like symptoms, Bonita was down by four, 46-42. Then Miller struck again with a pull-up jumper to make the score 46-44 with 59 seconds to play.

Chino Hills finally ended the Bearcats’ six-point run with an inside bucket by Chris Collins, pushing the Huskies’ lead to 48-44. Down four, Bonita’s Garrett Horine knocked in a deuce at the buzzer as the game clock expired.

“A couple things go our way, we hit a couple of free throws, grab an extra board, you never know how this might have turned out,” Eckler said.

But the Bonita players, now 12-3, who came into the finals after winning the Alhambra tournament, had no reason to hang their heads. They found their defensive soul, and pushed the champs to the limit.

“This was a great tournament for us,” Eckler said. “We have a couple of guys out, so we had some guys off the bench who had to step up, and they did a great job. We were right there, coming down the stretch.”

Bonita is tournament-tested and now ready to take on local rivals Damien at home, Jan. 6, and San Dimas on the road, Jan. 8, before league plays starts Jan. 13 against Charter Oak.

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