Boys Hoops: Bonita closing in on perfect introduction to the Hacienda League

By John Honell, Correspondent
Senior Night emotion wasn’t enough for the Rowland High School boys basketball team to pull off an upset against Bonita on Wednesday night. The Raiders led at the end of the first quarter but the Bearcats, who already had clinched the Hacienda League championship, came from behind for a 60-44 win. The win was the 11th consecutive for the Bearcats (23-3, 11-0), who remained undefeated in league play with one game left at Diamond Ranch on Friday.

There were two ties and four lead changes before the Raiders used an 11-4 run, including three 3-pointers, to take a 20-13 lead at the end of the first quarter.

Derrick Mar had a pair of three’s and Joseph Dionisio added another in the run.

Sharif Watson had 11 of his game-high 23 points, along with a pair of blocked shots, in the first quarter as the Raiders appeared primed for the upset.

“We had them shooting 8 for 9 in that first quarter,” Bearcats coach Greg Eckler said. “But I also thought they were outhustling us. They did the same the last time we played them. They outhustled us early. It was kind of a reality check before we dug in and got some stops and put some points on the board.”

Watson hit a 3-pointer early in the second quarter to give the Raiders their biggest lead, 23-15, before the Bearcats’ defense took charge.

Following Watson’s basket, the Bearcats went on a 14-2 run and took the lead for good at 26-25 on a basket by Jordan Butler following a turnover. Butler led the Bearcats with 14 points.

“We used that emotion and did a good job,” Raiders coach Gordon Hamlow said. “We were active and we had a lot of energy early, but they did a good job defensively and we started standing around and you can’t do that against a good team.”

The Raiders twice pulled within two points, the last time at 33-31 with 4:25 left in the third quarter. The Bearcats then went on a 12-0 run to take a 45-31 lead and put the game out of reach.

James Northop started the run with a layup off a turnover. Brandon Ko was fouled on a 3-point attempt and made two of three free throws. Ko then stole the ball and passed to Northop for a 3-pointer. Butler hit another three and finished the quarter with a pair of free throws.

“Our intensity picked up and that was the key,” Eckler said. “We had a terrible practice yesterday and a terrible shootaround, so all we were talking about was heart and energy and desire. None of that was there in the first quarter, so that’s something we’re worried about right now because we can’t do that in the playoffs.”

The Bearcats, ranked fifth in CIF-Southern Section Division 3A, will have a home game next week in the first round of postseason play.

The emotion came back for the Raiders late in the game as their fans started chanting for injured team captain Robin Yi.

Yi, a three-year varsity point guard, tore a knee ligament in a scrimmage game just prior to the start of the season. He was carried onto the court by his teammates to shoot free throws for an “injured” Zach Yamamoto.

“That meant the world to me,” Yi said. “To have so many supportive fans and that my team cared for me. It brought a tear to my eye. I was looking forward to this year, obviously, but things are going to happen in life and you just have to move on.”

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  • areacode

    Great work Bcats. Underated and underappreciated you are building a great season. Disciplined, hardworking watching this team is like watching a machine, concerned only about winning, no wasted emotion or show boating. Great to see a group of young people who show up to win as a team. Keep winning boys.
    Trib-thanks for the coverage

  • playoff duds

    Eckler should tuck his shirt in and get some Grecian Formula and the skater-dude on the right should sit down and let him coach!

  • BHS

    Eckler is the “skater dude” on the right. And that “skater dude” has won consecutive league championships.

  • really

    Eckler is the skater dude! sitting would be a start, checking out another, good coach, bad otherwise

  • more on that

    back to back is right, give credit to the kids, its not happening without them, he had some solid kids the last few years, abernathy, miller, 2 fassas, 2 horine, brungard, pendleton, butler and of course northrop, some big time players on that list, go back further and the list is deep with talent, school is blessed and loaded with good kids who work hard.

  • Wait!

    more on …

    Big time players?? Please. Your big time when you win CIF titles or earn a Div 1 ride. Because your the best team in a lousy league means just that. No CIF titles or rides, so for now, big fish in little pond.

  • Tech Support

    Great moment for Yi when the fans chanted for him and he was carried out to shoot the free throws. An example of what high school sports can be about when we’re not busy on the blog tearing people down.

  • Joe Amat

    I wonder if someone could post a video of the FT. Sounds like a cool moment

  • more

    Tech Support- well put, great moment!
    Wait!- sorry did not know someone from read this stuff, correct no D1’s yet, but that highlights the accomplishment, no titles yet and as you know 3A is a tough basketball division, similar to the 1’s and some say tougher than 2?
    Titles or lack of are not componets of the quality of the kids however, and these are all quality kids.

  • Aaron

    Why are we hating on Greg Eckler? You may not like him as a coach, he made be a hard man. Yet his kids play for him and give him 110%, which is why they win so many games. Without them there wouldn’t be this success and most certainly without him there wouldn’t be this success. 3A is a hard division.

    Congratulations to Coach Eckler and the seniors for playing so hard this season.

  • brad miller

    That was a real classy move by Eckler, letting that kid shoot that FT. Basketball is a game, a competitive one at that, but it goes to show that it can bring people together. That kid is probably real thankful for the Bonita staff too. Way to go Bearcats!