No.1 Guards Stunned By St. Bernard!

March 25, 2015 by  

bib_CIF-lossPLAYA DEL REY — When the buzzer sounded at the conclusion of its CIF Southern Section Division V-A semifinal game against St. Bernard High, Bellarmine-Jefferson’s boys’ basketball team had three players sitting on the bench after fouling out.

It was that kind of game for Bell-Jeff, which had free-throw shooting woes, unbalanced scoring and players hampered with foul trouble. As a result, the Vikings took advantage, came on strong in the fourth quarter and earned a 67-52 upset victory against the No. 1-seeded Guards.

PHOTOS: Foul problems hamper No. 1-seeded Bell-Jeff in upset loss to St. Bernard

Bell-Jeff might have seen its season come to an end after posting a 26-6 record and winning the Camino Real League championship. The Guards do, however, hold out hope that their strength of schedule, with games against Fairfax, Maranatha, Buckley, Narbonne and Bishop Amat, might earn them a spot in the state playoffs.

“That’s what we’re hoping for,” Bell-Jeff Coach Julian Andrade said. “Really, that’s the only hope we have to keep our season going.”

St. Bernard (14-17), the No. 5 seed, moves on to the division championship despite having a losing record and finishing last in the ultra-tough Del Rey League.

The Vikings were able to topple the Guards after losing to them earlier in the season, 65-57, in a tournament Dec. 29.

“I think the fact that we lost to them by that much of a margin earlier in the season definitely made us more motivated for a game like this,” St. Bernard Coach Mitch Runco said. “When you play in the Del Rey League, you always get better and I think we benefited from that tough competition.”

Bell-Jeff began to get into foul trouble in the second quarter and, as a result, some players were handcuffed for most of the game. That helped lead to only two Guards players in double figures — junior Isaac Etter with a team-high 23 points and senior Clark Thomas with 19 to go along with seven rebounds. The next-highest scorer was senior Abid Oses (six points), who fouled out with 1:34 left in the game.

“It just wasn’t a good game for us,” Etter said. “It’s tough to make it this far in the playoffs and lose. But our coach said to keep on fighting no matter what. Even though we did lose, we have to keep our heads up. But it is really tough.”

The Guards missed 10 free throws in the game.

The teams began the game with a low-scoring first quarter, with Bell-Jeff going into the first break with an 11-9 lead.

Bell-Jeff looked to be in control with 3:56 remaining in the second quarter when Oses scored on a driving layup to give the visitors a seven-point lead, 22-15. But the Vikings fired right back, snatching back the momentum to the tune of a 9-0 run to turn the tables on the Guards with a 24-22 advantage. St. Bernard ended the second quarter on a 13-3 run and went into halftime up, 28-25.

“I think their athleticism hurt us a lot,” Andrade said of the Vikings, who received 21 points and eight rebounds from junior Julian Ross and 12 points and 11 rebounds from junior Adam Amanuel. “We had some players who were just not able to get into the flow because of foul trouble.

“They were able to crash the boards on us and they made things very difficult. They were the better team tonight.”

The Guards began to play better in the early going of the third quarter and had a slim 31-30 lead with 5:58 remaining. But the Vikings surged back in front and took a 43-36 lead into the fourth quarter.

In the fourth, St. Bernard went up , 48-38, at the 6:45 mark. Thomas did all he could to get the Guards back into the game, scoring six points in the fourth. Bell-Jeff did cut the deficit to three, 53-50, with 3:32 left.

“We thought when we cut the lead to three we had a chance,” Andrade said. “We have been there before and this team never gives up.”

But the Guards experienced foul trouble down the stretch and the Vikings converted their free throws in the final quarter to secure the win.

In the fourth, St. Bernard converted 15 of 18 free-throw attempts.

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