Bonita Set for Playoffs, Damien and La Verne Lutheran Also Host First-Round Games

February 16, 2010
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Coach Eckler with his two children at a City League basketball game where the stakes aren't quite as high.

Coach Eckler with his two children at a City League basketball game where the stakes aren't quite as high.

With its 23-4 record and Miramonte League title in its hip pocket, the Bonita High School basketball team coached by Greg Eckler is confident about its first-round home matchup against Barstow, Wednesday, February 17. Tip-off is 7 p.m.

“We finished the season strong, so hopefully, we can continue that momentum into the playoffs,” he said.

From a leadership perspective, Eckler was impressed how his returning players took charge, especially in the latter part of the season. “The guys who had been there before and played the tough games emerged as leaders,” he said. “They were talking more and inspiring their teammates to keep playing hard to the finish.

“I’m talking about C.J. Miller and Casey Horine and those guys. They became more vocal and more invested because they’ve been around for longer.”

While leadership is not a problem for the Bearcats, injuries could be. “We’re not very healthy,” Eckler confided. “Gosh, Wednesday’s practice before we played Walnut (the last regular-season game), I think I had four guys out injured. At this point of the season, everybody’s got injuries, tweaked ankles and such. Everybody’s hurting, but you wade through it and figure it out and throw a lineup out there with some healthy guys, and hopefully you win.”

Even if Eckler has to field a patchwork lineup, it’ll still be formidable.

James Northup might have been Bonita’s most pleasant surprise, averaging more than 15 points a game and shooting better than 46% from beyond the three-point arc.

“He was good,” Eckler said, “but I expected him to put up between 10 and 12 points a game. He’s been putting up over 15 points, and he’s been doing consistently.”

Sophomore Garrett Horine is another unexpected gift that the Bearcats didn’t expect to open so soon. “I think through the last 10 games or so he’s been averaging 7 or 8 points and about 7 or 8 boards. To be pullinjg down 7 or 8 boards as a 6-foot-1 sophomore is something. He’s really stepped up.”

C.J. Miller has not been a surprise. He’s been the steady senior leader that Eckler had to have to win league. “To have a 6-foot-5 kid who can shoot the ball is huge,” Eckler said.

Eckler’s been around long enough to know that even the best teams will be inconsistent at times. While Bonita’s offense has risen and fallen, turned hot and cold, the team’s defense has been its hallmark. In most games, the Bearcats have won the battles for tough rebounds and loose balls.

“To continue advancing, we must continue playing great ‘D,’” Eckler said. “If we’re cold offensively and we don’t play ‘D,’ we have no chance.”

That latter scenario should prove highly unlikely. With Eckler pacing the sidelines and waving his arms like an uncompromising conductor in search of perfection, his players should be more than ready to match their coach’s intensity.

Let the playoffs begin!

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