Bearcats Crawl Out of First-Half Hole, Stage Now Set for Damien Showdown on Tuesday!

February 19, 2011
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Big Game James Northup had another stellar performance in helping Bonita overcome a 29-21 half-time deficit.

Big Game James Northup had another stellar performance in helping Bonita overcome a 29-21 half-time deficit.

Fortunate to be down only nine points at the half, 29-21, Bonita went on a 10-2 tear to open the third quarter and then used a suffocating defense and some clutch shooting to defeat the San Marco Royals 60-46 in a second round CIF-SS 3A game before a packed house at Bonita on Friday night.

It was a really a story of two different halves. In the first half, the Bearcats were “can’t-hit-water-if-they-fell-out-of-a-boat” cold. Well, that’s not exactly true. Garrett Horine chipped in nine points in the first half, none more important than a couple of buckets right before the half-time buzzer. Also, Shayan Karim off the bench had a couple of key putbacks to help keep the Royals lead to single digits.

For the half, the Indians knocked down four three-pointers while Bonita connected on a single bomb.

“At the half, we said we were really pleased with the looks that we were getting,” Bonita coach Greg Eckler said. “We just couldn’t make shots. What I was disappointed in was our defense, which we usually rely on to keep us close. I think we gave up 28 or 29 points in the first half, and that is just not us.”

Eckler saw the Bonita team he was used to seeing all season in the entire second half. Horine again got things started with a putback to narrow the Royals’ margin to 29-23, and then after a bucket by the Royals’ Johnny Manzo, Bonita’s Scott Fassas and Jordan Butler nailed back-to-back three-pointers followed by a twisting, acrobatic layup by point guard James Northup to knot the score at 31-31. Then Butler stole the ball for an easy layup to give Bonita its first lead of the game, 33-31. San Marcos regained the lead right back, 34-33, on a three by Cade Ridenour, but Butler answered with another three-pointer to put the Bearcats up 36-34, and Bonita never trailed again.

At the end of third quarter, the score was 42-39. Bonita scored as many points in the third quarter as it did the entire first half.

“James and JB (Butler) were incredible in the second half,” Eckler said in praising tones. “Scotty hit a couple of big shots. Karim off the bench was huge with his putbacks and boards.”

Eckler also couldn’t help but reflect on Horine’s two big chip-ins before the half to keep the contest close.

“Instead of going down double digits, it was only an 8-point game,” Eckler said. “I thought we played awful, and still we were down only eight.”

No question Eckler and his team were frustrated by their first-half performance, knowing they were only 16 minutes away from watching other teams compete in the tournament.

“The kids didn’t get that feel of urgency, though,” Eckler said. “It was more like, ‘Well, all right, let’s go, let’s get it done.’ That’s the thing with our seniors. They didn’t panic. They didn’t start taking stupid shots. They just dug in and got some stops and got some points.”

Eckler knew San Marcos was a quality opponent that would pose problems for the Bearcats.

“I knew that coming into it, although a 12 seed, they were much better than their record indicated,” Eckler said. Their big kid inside (Christian Mkpado) was a beast.

“It was a great win.”

It was also great redemption for Butler, Bonita’s sharp-shooting guard who had five first quarter points and then drew the collar in the second quarter, before he came out smoking after the intermission.

“I knew I would finally hit, so I was going to keep on shooting,” said the senior guard. As far as helping his teammates’ launch their critical comeback, Butler added, “We felt like we had one of the best back courts in our league, so we knew we would respond.

“We were never worried; we just knew we had to play some defense.”

That they did. Butler’s backcourt running mate, James Northup played another excellent game, especially in the fourth game with the tension ratcheted up to a deafening roar. The more the Royals hawked and swarmed the ball, the more patient Northup seemed to play, either finding an open man or going to the rack for another twisting layup. He milked the clock to perfection.

“I was just trying to find a way to get some open looks for my teammates,” Northup said. “At halftime, coach started getting on us for not hustling and getting outrebounded. We just had to come out fired up and take over the second half and get the win.”

From Eckler’s standpoint, it’s got to be great, knowing that students still listen to their teachers – for one night, anyway.

With Damien’s 54-37 victory over Woodbridge also on Friday, the stage is now set for one of the biggest intra-city battles in recent history, as Damien will host the Bearcats in a CIF-SS-3A quarterfinals match on Tuesday at 7 p.m.

Get there early!

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