By Miguel A. Melendez, Staff Writer
MONROVIA — There’s something about Monrovia High School’s boys basketball team that’s keeping its fans on the edge of their seats.
Perhaps it’s the suspense, and there was plenty of it in the Wildcats’ 58-57 victory over visiting Temple City in Friday night’s Rio Hondo League action.
Monrovia’s Nick Long sank a 3-pointer with 3:39 left to give the Wildcats (8-10, 4-2) the lead for good. He then converted both free throws to give Monrovia a 58-54 lead with 12.3 seconds to go. Temple City (8-8, 3-3) attempted a frantic 3-pointer that missed the rim on the ensuing possession.
Monrovia’s Jay Henderson then was fouled with 5.2 seconds left. He missed the front end of a one-and-one and Temple City’s Matt Valazza sank a 3-pointer from mid-court at the buzzer.
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Monrovia was led by Henderson’s 16 points and Jamale Bars’ 10. Long and Derrin Jenkins each had nine as the Wildcats stayed within striking distance of a league championship.
It helps that Monrovia will play two more home games before closing out the season at South Pasadena and Blair.
The Wildcats, coming off a thrilling overtime victory over Blair last Friday, once again gave fans their money’s worth. It certainly didn’t seem like that was going to be the case once the game started, though.
Temple City led 7-1 and Monrovia didn’t score its first field goal until 4:01 left in the first quarter on a Carl Daniels layup. And every time the Wildcats went on a spurt, the Rams countered with one of their own.
It happened midway through the second quarter when Monrovia went on an 8-0 run that included Jenkins’ 11-footer with 5:18 left, giving the Wildcats their first lead, 17-16. It didn’t last long, not after Temple City got back-to-back 3-pointers from Valazza, who finished with 15 points. Harriman Chiang also scored 15 points and Zach Aquino, one of only two players returning from last year’s league championship team, had 12.
Monrovia got off to a solid start in the third quarter and capitalized on three Temple City turnovers that resulted in a 6-0 run for a 30-27 lead with 6:57 left in the quarter. From then on, both teams began trading shots and it was something Monrovia coach Jared Mix expected to happen.
“We knew exactly what they were going to do,” he said. “They were going to move the ball around and kick it outside. We knew that and yet they still sucked us inside and we had trouble defending them from the perimeter.
“We had a hand on their face, and they were shooting everything.”
Temple City coach Rich Hollinger didn’t mind the constant outside shooting but wanted better rotation.
“Sometimes they get a little carried away,” said Hollinger, whose Rams missed three of their past four 3-point attempts. “We shoot a lot but not over just anybody. We were drawing them in and kicking it out, which is what we wanted to do. But at the end we just weren’t passing the ball like I wanted them to.
“We had plenty of opportunities that were missed.”