By Tyler Drohan, Correspondent
In a game of runs, an early spurt propelled the Covina boys basketball team to the Azusa Tournament championship with a 59-53 victory over Chino on Friday.
With a tenuous three-point lead, junior Nino Harrell hit a critical 3-pointer to push the Covina advantage to 55-49 with 36 seconds to play in the game. Up to that point, Chino had staged a furious 21-5 run that had the Cowboys as close as they had been since late in the first quarter. Chino trailed 57-53 but missed a late attempt, and Covina (7-3) senior Kyle Chiu made a layup as time expired. (to continue, click thread)
Above: Covina’s Mike Peters driving for two
Covina coach Will Bissman said of Harrell, “He’s our guy, and sometimes he hurts us because he shoots some threes at bad times, but then he has a shot like that, that really helps us over the top, so he’s going to do that and I’m going to let him do that.”
Covina led 47-28 following a driving layup by sophomore Justin Diaz. Chino senior Samuel Holmes began a 21-5 run with a 3-pointer to make it 47-31 at the end of the third. The Cowboys then scored the first 11 points of the fourth, capped by Jon Milian’s layup with 5:19 to play to make it 47-42.
Tournament MVP Mike Peters answered with a three-point play to put the Colts up 50-42. The sophomore finished the game with 10 points, including five in the quarter. All-tournament senior Ren MacAlalag converted two free throws to push the lead to 10 for the Colts.
“They’re a good team and they got hot,” Bissman said. “When they get hot, we’re really young at times, so it gets us flustered a little bit, and I had to call a couple timeouts to slow us down. They’re a good team, so take nothing away from them.”
Chino led 11-9 late in the first before Harrell hit two 3-pointers to put Covina up 15-11 at the end of the first and spark a 21-2 run. Harrell hit another 3-pointer during the run to give the Colts a 30-13 halftime lead.
“He’s our guy, he’s our shooter,” Bissman said of Harrell. “He sometimes will go 0 for 4 and hit his next eight. He has no memory, just keeps shooting and shooting and shooting. He jump-starts a lot of runs for us.”
Holmes and Milian each scored 20 points for Chino, which dropped to 6-3.
“We got lazy and started to stand around in our zone,” Chino coach Eric Highstreet said. “As soon as we start to do that, that’s when guys get open shots, and we were just giving up open shots and getting beat to the ball.”
“The first half was poor execution offensively,” he added, “and the second half our backs were against the wall, and when we had to do it, we came through; we executed well and we had a lot of stops.
“Jon Milian did a good job scoring for us, but it came down to the defensive end, where we made some stops and were able to get back in the game.”
Milian scored 18 points in the second half for the Cowboys, including 12 in the fourth.
“He’s a big-time player,” Highstreet said of all-tournament player Milian. “When he has to carry a team, he can do it, and we look for a lot of scoring from him.”
“Coming into the tournament,” said Bissman, “we wanted to get better on defense, and we held them to 13 first- half points, which I think was the key.
“We really want to be a good defensive team, so I think that was our goal for this tournament, and we really accomplished our goal.”
“Obviously I’d like to come in first,” said Highstreet, “but our performance and how we battled back in the second half is a pretty good indication to me of what kind of ballclub we have this year.”