By John Honell, Correspondent
SOUTH EL MONTE - The South El Monte boys basketball team, showing the heart of a two-time defending champion, overcame a 13-point halftime deficit to pull out a 48-45 win over Arroyo on Wednesday night. (To continue click thread)
The Eagles (9-7, 3-0) lost nine players who played on both championship teams, but they have sole possession of first place in the Mission Valley League standings.
The Eagles trailed from the opening basket until 5:20 of the fourth quarter when Ray Natividad hit a 3-pointer to tie the score.
“We started a little nervous,” Eagles coach Robert Burgess said. “Our guys are young and played a little anxious in the first half, but we calmed down in the second half and were very fortunate to come out ahead.”
The Eagles took their first lead when Isaiah Alcantar stole the ball and drove for a layup with 3:30 left in the game.
The Knights (7-8, 2-1) followed with a basket to tie the score, but Anthony Jimenez came up with a steal and passed to Alcantar for another layup to put the Eagles up for good, 44-42, with 1:22 left.
Alcantar and Jimenez each had 14 points to lead the Eagles.
“Those guys play well together,” Burgess said. “They really share the ball, all they care about is winning. We created some turnovers, made some layups then we made our free throws down the stretch.”
After Jimenez hit a pair of free throws, Martin Tran hit a three pointer with 4.6 seconds left to pull the Knights within a point.
Jiminez hit two more free throws, but a long 3-point attempt from mid-court went wide for the Knights.
The Knights jumped out to a 10-0 lead and held the Eagles scoreless for the first 7:30 of the first quarter.
“They picked up the tempo in the second half,” Knights coach Carlos Barajas said. “They got a little more aggressive and our guys didn’t step up and match their intensity.”
The Knights led 14-7 at the end of the first quarter and extended the lead to 27-14 at the half as Tran and Mark Roche dominated inside.
Tran led all scorers with 18 points.
The Eagles, led by Christian Servin, started taking control of the boards in the second half as South El Monte got back into the game.
“We knew (Roche) was a good player,” Burgess said. “We hoped Christian would step up and have a good game defensively and rebounding, and he did.”