Bonita’s Last-Ditch Attempt for Victory Intercepted; Bearcats Fall to Chargers, 58-55

January 31, 2010
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Bonita's Tim Fassas and Charter Oak's Louie Jacabo prepare to lead their teams to victory.

Bonita's Tim Fassas and Charter Oak's Louie Jacabo prepare to lead their teams to victory.

The Bonita-Charter Oak game wasn’t decided until the basketball launched by the Bearcats Casey Horine grazed a water polo banner high amid the rafters and fell harmlessly to earth, crashing No. 1 Bonita’s hopes for a perfect league record after the stunning 58-55 loss on its home court.

In the end, it was probably Bonita’s failure to convert any free throws in the second half (it was 0 for 7) while the Chargers collected 10 of 15 from the charity stripe in the second half that was the difference-maker in this hard-fought struggle for first place.

With the scored knotted at 52-52 with 1:38 left in the game, Bonita’s Jordan Butler fouled the Chargers’ Kenny Saldana, who calmed knocked down both free throws in the one-and-one pressure situation. The Chargers’ 54-52 lead appeared short-lived when Bonita’s C.J. Miller rose up in front of the 3-point arc and took dead aim on the basket. Miller’s attempt just missed and he was forced to foul the Chargers’ Anthony Franco with 38 second remaining. Like Saldana, Franco knocked down both free throws giving the Chargers a 56-52 lead. After Charter Oak converted yet another free throw to take a 57-52 lead, it appeared the game was all but over before Butler drained a long three with 2.3 seconds left to make the 57-55.

Casey Horine last-second launch was intercepted by a Water Polo championship banner hanging from the gym rafters.

Casey Horine last-second launch was intercepted by a Water Polo championship banner hanging from the gym rafters.

On the Chargers’ inbounds play, Bonita fouled Franco, without losing a second on the official scorer’s clock. This time, Franco proved human and missed both attempts, but the second carom went back to the Chargers who appeared to run out the clock. After a brief discussion, the officials agreed that a Charger had been fouled as time was expiring, bringing the Chargers to the line yet again with less than a second to play. After the Chargers converted one of two, and taking a 58-55 lead, Bonita’s Horine launched his desperation baseline-to-baseline shot that looked on course before it was intercepted by the championship banner.

“I thought from tip off, you could tell there was an energy among their team that we just did not have,” disappointed Bonita coach Greg Eckler said. “You could feel it.”

The crowd could also see it. Charter Oak, humbled by Bonita, 61-43 on Jan. 13, came out smoking, scoring the first seven points until Tim Fassas broke the streak with a single free throw. The Chargers made that early 7-0 run stand up, leading the first quarter 17-10. All of Bonita’s scoring came from Fassas with 6 points and Miller with 4 points.

Charter Oak pushed the lead to 22-12 before Bonita started clawing back. Miller netted a three, and then Garrett Horine dove for a loose ball, and after the scrum, Fassas was sent to the free throw line and knocked down a pair. Suddenly, Bonita was within five points of the lead. After the Chargers’ Kyle Heidenrich hit a jumper, 25-17, Bonita’s James Northup poured in a three, followed by Miller’s three, 25-23. After the Chargers” Evan Barr connected on a jumper, Northup nailed another three at the halftime buzzer to bring Bonita within one point of tying the game, 27-26.

At halftime, Bonita came back on the floor a little early, practicing its shots, hoping to convert a few more open looks in the second half. The extra time and correction paid off. Northup started the second half, finding the range on another three-pointer to give Bonita its first lead of the game, 29-27. In under two minutes, Northup had scored eight points, and after a three by Fassas and a put back by Casey Horine, Bonita shot out to a 39-30 lead. It appeared the Bearcats had weathered the Chargers’ best shot and were likely to keep their home court advantage and No. 1 San Gabriel Valley Tribune ranking.

But the Chargers started creeping back, by grabbing an extra rebound, running down a loose ball and knocking down some key shots. Clinging to a two-point lead, 43-41, Bonita worked for the last shot of the quarter. Butler ran down the clock before dishing to Casey Horine for an inside layup. Entering the fourth quarter, Bonita led 45-41.

In the fourth, the Chargers tied the score at 45-45 after opening baskets from Franco and Josiah Thropay. There would be three more ties at 47-47, 49-49 and 52-52, before the Chargers settled the contest at the free throw line, hitting the pressure shots and claiming a portion of first place with Bonita.

Eckler thought his team had been outhustled and out-scrapped. “We got up nine, and I think we got complacent with 10 or 12 minutes left to play,” Eckler said. “I thought we scrapped and played incredibly hard and outhustled them for maybe five or six minutes. But for the rest of the game, they had every loose ball, every contested rebound; they wanted it more.”

With the loss, Bonita likely will forfeit its No. 1 when the next poll is taken, not fully ready to wear the bull’s eye on its jersey.

“Give credit to Charter Oak,” Eckler conceded. “They played hard, they shot well from the free throw line. They wanted it.”

Bonita’s Northup led all scorers with 17 points, include five 3-pointers.

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