Citrus Cup Runneth Over for Bonita as Bearcats Down San Dimas, 47-39

January 9, 2010
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citrus-cup-boysAs far as feuds go, the Bearcats and Saints are right up there with the Hatfields and McCoys and the Montagues and Capulets. The latest installment of the intense rivalry played out Friday night before a packed and raucous house at the University of La Verne tents, where Bonita earned a hard-fought 47-39 victory over San Dimas. Ostensibly, both teams were playing for a bowl of lemons and oranges, but the real prize was local bragging rights.

Although Bonita never trailed after breaking a 9-9 tie on a three-point play by James Northup to go up 12-9, the Bearcats victory wasn’t locked down until the waning minutes of the fourth quarter.

In the fourth, after two failed shots attempts by Bonita, the Bearcats kept crashing the boards to maintain possession. On the team’s third field-goal try, Jordan Butler coolly sank a three-pointer, a high-arching, spirit-breaking shot that drained any remaining hopes of a Saints comeback. C.J. Miller followed up with another basket to expand the lead to 41-30 with 3:39 left.

San Dimas would pull as close as 45-39 after a basket by Erick Lamson, who finished the night with 16 points, but it would still not be enough as Bonita closed out the game 47-39.

San Dimas played well in the opening minutes, connecting on three treys to lead 9-7. Bonita then answered with 13 straight points to go up 20-9 early in the second quarter. Everything seemed to be working for the Bearcats. The run featured backdoor alley-oops and a monster dunk by Miller. Bonita was winning the battle of the boards and the scuffles for the loose balls. Only a bucket by the Saints’ Adrian Lucero broke the 13-point streak.

The San Dimas-Bonita rivalry always guarantees a full house.

The San Dimas-Bonita rivalry always guarantees a full house.

Bonita’s spirited play also marked the return of stellar Bonita guard Tim Fassas, out several games with a twisted ankle. Fassas flashed his trademark tough defense and dished out an assist to Casey Horine to expand the lead to 24-13.

“I thought Tim played great defense, and that’s what helped us in the first half, and Caelan (Tiongson) played great defense the whole game,” Bonita Coach Greg Eckler said.

After a rebound and put-back by Miller and an alley oop from Horine to Butler, the Bearcats roared to a 28-13 lead.

At that juncture, the game had the look of a BCS blow-out by Alabama over Texas before the Longhorns made a game of it. Taking its cue, San Dimas reeled off the last seven points of the half, the last three coming on a three by Lamson just before the buzzer to make the score 28-20 at the half.

In the third, both teams traded baskets before San Dimas closed to within four points, 30-26, on baskets by Zach Elkhaldy and Lamson. Feeling the heat, Bonita finally responded with back-to-back buckets from Horine, one on a rebound and put-back, the other on a steal and a layup, pushing out Bonita’s lead to 34-26.

But it was Horine’s defense that most impressed Eckler.

“When he plays tough, when he plays ‘D,’ we go the way he goes,” Eckler said.

Still, San Dimas wasn’t going away. Elkhaldy scored the final two points of the third quarter, shaving Bonita’s lead to 34-28, with a full eight minutes left to play.

To start the fourth, both teams again traded baskets, taking the score to 36-30. That’s when Butler took advantage of Bonita’s third straight shot attempt on its offensive series down the court to finally drain the three and give Bonita an insurmountable 39-30 lead.

Bonita withstood several smaller San Dimas surges by always finding an answer when it needed one most in the form of a rebound, a loose ball, a put-back, or a clutch free throw. The Bearcats’ victory wasn’t a work of beauty, but more a work of will and determination.

“I thought we played pretty hard on defense,” Eckler said moments after the game. “We were up big, then the last two minutes of the second quarter we gave up a 7-0 run, which is really inexcusable. We stopped playing, and San Dimas is well coached and they played hard and came back on us. But it’s a rivalry game.

“We made mistakes, but we found a way to win ugly.”

In the end, Bonita made lemonade out of lemons, and now hold the lemon-filled trophy to prove it.

Leading scorers for Bonita were Casey Horine with 14 and Miller with 11. For San Dimas, Lamson had 16.

League play starts next week, Jan. 13, when Bonita travels to Charter Oak.

The Bonita varsity girls also prevailed, with a 48-35 win over San Dimas, to claim their own Citrus Cup.

Bonita Girls Varsity also brought home the cup.

Bonita Girls Varsity also brought home the cup.

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