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By Loren Kopff
@LorenKopff on Twitter
The Whitney High boys basketball team began the regular season with an 11-point win over Los Amigos High. The Wildcats then closed out its nonleague portion of the schedule, while christening the 2016 calendar year, with another win over the Lobos.
This time, Whitney had to hang on for a 39-29 win last Saturday night after it had built a 21-point lead late in the first half. While it was the lowest offensive output through the first eight games, the Wildcats held an opponent to under 30 points for the first time this season.
“Defensively, their energy went away and it kind of dictated our offense,” said Whitney head coach Ruben Guerrero of the near collapse. “They just couldn’t get it back. It got to the point where I brought in bench guys to see if the level of play would be raised and it just seemed it got worse.”
Whitney clearly dominated the first half, yielding only a first quarter three-pointer from Sergio Salgado and a long distance shot from Arthur Tran with 1:44 left in the half. Offensively, the ‘Cats could do little wrong. Despite shooting 10 of 31 from the field before the intermission, the hosts turned the ball over twice. Senior Luigi Gonzalez scored 10 points in the half, senior Michael Hamakawa had four assists and two rebounds before the break, senior K.J. Hardrict had eight rebounds and a block in the first 16 minutes and sophomore Heaven Flores added nine points over that same time.
But it would be completely different in the second half where Whitney’s shooting went ice cold. It missed on its first eight shots from the field and didn’t score until midway through the third quarter on a Flores basket. Whitney was outscored 10-5 in the stanza as Salgado scored nine of those points.
Los Amigos scored the final four points of the third quarter and the first seven of the fourth quarter before Gonzales ended the scoring drought. But two free throws from Adan Garduno and another basket from Salgado made it a six-point affair before the ‘Cats iced the game on a 6-0 run. Gonzales led Whitney with 12 points while Flores added 11 points with six rebounds. Hardrict was the main force under the glass with 15 rebounds.
“He did well, just like the rest of the team, in the first half,” Guerrero said of Hardrict. “And then when the second half started, everything went out the window. He really didn’t get his composure back until four minutes left in the fourth. It seems like he’s made leaps and bounds since last season, but he’s not there where he really needs to be.”
Even though Whitney has played in only eight games with five coming on the positive side, its three losses have come by a combined 18 points. Whitney lost an overtime contest to Estancia High on Dec. 2, a six-point setback to Garden Grove the next night and fell to Bolsa Grande High by three points on Dec. 22. Whitney opened up league action this past Tuesday night at Calvary Chapel Downey High and lost to the Grizzlies 42-35. Whitney led at the break 23-16 but was outscored 14-2 in the third quarter.
“Those losses were all dictated by the little, tiny mistakes we made throughout the second half,” Guerrero said. “All of those losses came down to mental errors.
“Hopefully we can take this and learn from all of the mistakes we made in the second half and hopefully correct it going into Tuesday night’s game,” Guerrero added. “I believe this team can do it. It’s just a matter of them getting their act together. And it might have a lot to do with too many days off as well.”
The ‘Cats will host league rival Oxford Academy tonight on homecoming night before travelling to St. Margaret’s High on Tuesday. The homecoming night event will be extra special as the school is celebrating its 40th anniversary and many alumni are expected to be in attendance, including those from Whitney’s 1986 and 1987 California Interscholastic Federation-Southern Section small school boys basketball championships, coached by Bruce Carlisle.
“I think we’re all excited about it,” Guerrero said. “I’m looking forward to seeing what this school does for its 40th [anniversary]. I’m hoping that this team is mature enough to see past all of that and enjoy after the win. That game should actually show their maturity if they developed it over these past seven or eight games.”
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