Guards are just too tough

December 20, 2008 by  

BOYS’ BASKETBALL: Bell-Jeff takes advantage of Providence’s shooting woes in 57-36 win.

PROVIDENCE HIGH — In the early going of its rivalry game, the Providence High boys’ basketball team appeared to have enough to stay with an athletic Bellarmine-Jefferson squad.

With just one point separating the teams after one quarter, it looked like Saturday’s cross-town matchup had the potential to go down to the wire.

However, the Pioneers went cold in the second quarter, and the Guards took full advantage, rolling to a 57-36 nonleague victory at Providence High.

“We are so athletic, much more than we have been in previous years,” said Bell-Jeff Coach Eli Essa, whose team improved to 6-3. “We are also blessed with a team that knows how to win. This is a team that went 21-4 on the [junior varsity] team last year, so they know how to play together.”

Essa said his team’s goal is to try and wear opponents down with its speed and a trapping defense that causes its share of turnovers.

“We have always been a pressing team, but this year we have the athletes who can carry that out,” he said. “This year, I have finally been able to implement a lot of the defenses that I love to run. That’s worked to our advantage.”

The Pioneers (3-2) found the going rough at the beginning of the game. They missed their first six shots from the floor, as the Guards jumped out to a 10-0 lead.

However, Bell-Jeff then went cold, and Providence’s Chad Mitsunaga got hot. He scored eight points — including two three-pointers — to spark an 11-0 Pioneers run.

Trying to protect a one-point lead, the Pioneers again lost their scoring touch in the second quarter.

“I think it was a combination of our shots not falling, us putting pressure on ourselves and us trying to do too much,” Providence Coach Cary Many said.

“I just don’t think we did a good job at playing team basketball. We got too excited and we got into ‘Lets see what I can do in front to the crowd,’ instead of seeing what Providence can do against Bell-Jeff.”

Those problems translated to a one-of-11 shooting effort in the second quarter. Providence’s only field goal of the quarter came when Michael Saint drained a bucket with 56 seconds left.

That opened the door for Bell-Jeff, who outscored the Pioneers, 18-3.

The game was taken over in the second quarter by Bell-Jeff’s Alexes Bersabe, who tallied eight of his game-high 18 points in the stanza. He also had six steals.

Teammate Khalil Saardo added nine points.

Things were more even in the third quarter, as both teams scored 13 points. However, the Guards still held a double-digit advantage, 41-27. It didn’t help that the Pioneers had 21 turnovers in the game.

“We have a freshman and two sophomores who see a lot of playing time for us,” Essa said. “They are still learning, and I think they’re only going to get better as the season goes on.”

There was an incident that took place in the third quarter that rattled some of the Guards players, but didn’t seem to throw the team off its task at hand.

After a Bell-Jeff timeout, two of the team’s players got into a scuffle with one another near the Guards’ bench. After order was restored, the players calmed down and took seats on the bench.

However, a short time later, freshman Andre Frazier, one of the players involved in the incident, stood up, took his Bell-Jeff jersey off, threw it on the side of the court and stormed out of the gymnasium.

He did finally return to the Guards’ bench some time later.

“Andre is a kid who plays with a great deal of emotion. He wears his heart on his sleeve,” Essa said. “He’s a good character kid who just lost it for a moment.”

The Pioneers’ shooting woes extended into the fourth quarter, as they were able to score only one basket.

“I think I told the guys, I want to say in the third quarter, we’re getting good shots, but we’re just not making them,” Many said. “Along with the turnovers, rebounding really hurt us.”

Mikey Gutierrez paced Providence with 11 points, nine rebounds and five steals. Mitsunaga added eight points and three steals.

By Jeff Tully

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