Bonita Wins Overtime Thriller Against Damien, 57-52

January 6, 2010
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Bonita's James Northup was locked in early.

Bonita's James Northup was locked in early.

Two La Verne teams meeting in a hotly contested game for local bragging rights happens as often as a solar eclipse, but there they were on Wednesday night in the Bonita gym, the Bonita Bearcats (12-3) vs. the Damien Spartans (12-2). Public school vs. private school, Bonita kelly green vs. Damien dark forest green, free tuition vs. fee tuition. After 36 minutes, including one overtime, Bonita emerged victorious 57-52.

Early on, it was James Northup leading Bonita. His three early buckets accounted for six of Bonita’s nine first quarter points, the other three coming on a basket by Garrett Pendleton and a free throw by C.J. Miller. For Damien, Chris Adams hit a trey while Chris Reyes and Ryan Tatera each had a deuce. After one period, Bonita led 9-7.

In the second quarter, the Bearcats’ Jordan Butler hit a trey, helping push Bonita’s lead to 20-14. Adams responded with two three-pointers of his own and a pair of free throws to bring the Spartans back within a point, 20-19. Bonita, however, closed out the scoring with another three-pointer from Northup and a pair of free throws from Miller to give Bonita a 25-19 edge at the half.

“I knew they were keying on him,” Bonita coach Greg Eckler said of Northup. “I told him to be patient, that it might be a game where he doesn’t score a whole lot, but he was making shots and making great decisions. He was on tonight.”

The first half clearly belonged to Bonita and Northup who scored 13 of Bonita’s 25 first-half points. Adams had a dozen for Bonita. The other big story was the Bearcats’ holding Reyes, Damien’s dominant center, to just a field goal.

In the second half, it appeared Damien was ready to work the ball down low to Reyes, but Bonita continued to double and trap him every time he touched the ball. Meanwhile, Bonita put together an eight-point run on a pair of baskets and a pair of free throws by Miller, plus a basket by Pendleton, expanding the team’s lead to 33-19.

Just as quickly, Damien responded with eight straight points of its own, seven of them coming from Terrell Bolden, including a steal and a breakaway layup. Northup finally broke the run with a basket to make the score Bonita 35-27. After Adams connected on another three for Damien, Miller scored underneath with three Spartan players swarming him to close out the third quarter and preserve a 37-32 lead for Bonita. Bonita’s 14 bulge had been whittled to five, with the full eight minutes of the fourth quarter still to play.northup-closeup

To start the fourth, Damien drew first blood on a three-pointer from Kevin Mansour to make the score Bonita 37, Damien 35. Bonita responded again with a basket from Miller and a pair of free throws from Casey Horine, giving Bonita a 41-35 advantage. Bonita bolted ahead 47-39 after a thunderous dunk from Miller that ignited the Bonita home crowd.

“That was awesome,” Eckler said. “We’ve been telling him to go to the rack like that all year, and that’s when he just went for it.”

After a Bolden free throw, Bonita led 47-40 with 1:43 left to play in the game. Damien edged closer, 47-42,  after a basket by Reyes. After Bonita’s Garrett Horine sank a free throw, Bonita led 48-42. Then Adams was fouled attempting a three-pointer. The standout guard succeeded in making all three charity attempts. With 33.3 seconds remaining, Bonita clung to 48-45 advantage.

Fighting the game clock, Damien fouled Butler intentionally, but the Bonita guard missed both free throws, leaving the door open for Damien to strike. Reyes scored an easy uncontested basket with 13.9 seconds left on the clock. The field goal made the score 48-47 Bonita. Without the ball, Damien fouled Miller who calmly knocked down both free throws, giving Bonita the lead, 50-47, with only seconds remaining on the clock.

But that was more than enough time for Adams to strike again, who hit a three with 5.2 seconds left. Bonita ran one last play, but the ball fell short of the rim, and game was sent into overtime. Bonita, which had led the entire game, now was staring at a tie, and worse, the prospect of having led all the way only to lose in the end.

“When they came back and tied it in regulation, I told our guys we can’t let them break our spirit,” Eckler said. He and his players may have been the only believers left, as Damien, the favorites going into the game, had clawed back to tie the game on the final basket.

In overtime, Reyes was fouled and converted one of two free throws to give the Spartans their first lead. But on Bonita’s possession, Damien fouled Miller, who again connected on both free throws to give Bonita a 52-51 advantage. After Bolden was called for traveling, Miller had a shot rim out before Reyes was finally fouled. But Reyes missed both attempts and then it was Miller time. The senior was sent back to the line, converting one of two to make the score, 53-51, Bonita. Then Reyes was fouled, hitting one of two, to make the score 53-52.

The frenetic pace quickened even more. Butler, who had missed the final shot of regulation, slid inside to make a key basket, giving Bonita a 55-52 edge. After a Miller rim-out, Adams came flying down the court but was whistled for a charge. Damien didn’t quit, however. It stole the inbounds pass, with the ball dangerously falling into the hands of Adams, who fired long on his three. After the miss, Damien fouled Miller, who did what he did best all night long, converting two more free throws, taking the score to 57-52 and sealing the contest.

The early lead by Bonita gave the Bearcats confidence that they could hang with the favored Spartans, and that confidence was tested when Damien tied the game at the end of regulation.

“We had our opportunities with a minute, two minutes to put the game away, Eckler added. Free throws hurt us, but I was real pleased with how we finished.”

Eckler said the Bearcats really had no answer for Adams, who finished with 23 points. “He just went off,” Eckler said. “He’s such a good player, you just kind of hope he’s off, you hope he misses.

But not even Adams could stop a determined Bonita squad.

“I’m just so proud of my guys, the way they stepped up and battled in overtime,” Eckler said.

Hopefully, Bonita won’t be totally drained of emotion because it faces San Dimas at the University of La Verne on Friday night.

“It’s going to be another emotional game,” Eckler said. “The house is going to be packed.”

On the night, C.J. Miller and James Northup each scored 19 points for Bonita. For Damien, Adams led all scorers with 23. Bolden had 10 and Reyes finished with nine.

Bonita’s Caelan Tiongson and Zack Brungard were both injured during play. The extent of their injuries and their status for the game against San Dimas was not known at press time.

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