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ST. JOHN BOSCO BRAVES VARSITY WINTER CLASSIC – Gahr shrugs off slow start against Grand Terrace to avoid going winless in third tournament

 

Gahr High freshman Dillon Chelsea attempts one of his 17 shots taken against Grand Terrace High last Saturday in the Gladiator’s final game of the St. John Bosco Braves Varsity Winter Classic. Chelsea scored 24 points, had five rebounds, five assists and three steals in Gahr’s 78-57 win, which snapped a three-game losing streak. PHOTO BY ARMANDO VARGAS, Contributing photographer.

 

 

 

December 14, 2021

By Loren Kopff • @LorenKopff on Twitter

 

BELLFLOWER-The Gahr High boys basketball team, on the heels of capturing the El Monte Invitational the week of Nov. 22-27, knew it would be tougher to keep the momentum going this past week in the St. John Bosco Braves Varsity Winter Classic. The Gladiators began the tournament losing to Damien High, ranked fifth at the time, in the CIF-Southern Section Division 1 poll, Victor Valley High and Walnut High, ranked 13th at the time, in Division 3AA.

After falling behind by nine points to Grand Terrace High within the first four minutes of last Saturday morning’s contest, Gahr bounced back in a big way, outscoring the Titans 47-24 in the second and third quarters combined and came away with a 78-57 win, leaving the Gladiators at 7-5.

“This is one of the top tournaments in Southern California,” said Gahr head coach Ricky Roper. “So, we played really, really good teams. Victor Valley was really good; Damien was good. We did not play well yesterday. I would say out of the four games, there was one game we didn’t compete to the way we would have liked, [and] that was yesterday against Walnut.”

When the latest polls were released this past Monday, Damien had moved up to third while Walnut had dropped to 14th. Grand Terrace scored the first five points of the game and led 12-3 before a three-pointer from freshman Dillon Chelsea jump started the Gladiators. Chelsea, who missed the first two games of the tournament, would put back an offensive rebound 66 seconds later to make it a 14-8 game and ended the opening quarter with another basket as Gahr inched closer at 21-18.

The Gladiators took their first lead, 25-23, with 4:46 remaining in the first half on a steal and basket from senior Delmus Wilkerson III and never trailed the rest of the way. That was the second of four straight baskets they would score in a two-minute span with Chelsea adding four more points to his total. Chelsea scored 24 points for the second straight contest and has reached at least 23 points four times while scoring in double figures another three times.

Since the 12-3 start, the Titans posted consecutive baskets only once the remainder in the half and twice in the third quarter. But by that time, the Gladiators had built a 19-point lead, thanks to a 16-1 run that began with the final 18 seconds of the first half and consumed the first three minutes of the third quarter. Chelsea and senior Jayden Thomas each scored seven points in the second quarter with the latter adding three downtown shots in the third quarter to help the Gladiators build a 65-45 lead entering the final stanza.

“We really picked up our energy in the second and third quarters,” Roper said. “It’s just been a hard week. Dillon has only played two games this week [and senior] Caleb Shepherd, who is a really, really good player for us and was an all-league player for us last year, had 14 points at halftime against Victor Valley and cut his head. So, he missed the rest of the Victor Valley game and the rest of the tournament.

“But we have to kids who are home because of contact tracing,” he continued. “So, we really don’t have the team we had in the [El Monte] Tournament. Hopefully, we can get everybody back healthy and get it going before league.”

Chelsea, Thomas and senior Daniel Okoro accounted for all 13 points Gahr would score in the fourth quarter with Thomas leading all scorers with 25 points while Chelsea and Okoro had 24 and 17 points respectively. In addition, Okoro had seven rebounds, four assists and three steals while Chelsea pitched in with five rebounds and four steals. Defensively, the Gladiators had nine steals and four blocks.

“Jayden picked up his energy and hit some shots [today],” Roper said. “He was big.”
Against Damien on Dec. 6, four players scored in a 65-33 loss with Okoro posting 12 points, five rebounds and three blocks while Shepherd had 10 points. Two days later, Gahr fell to Victor Valley 57-56 with Shepherd and Thomas leading the blue and gold with 14 points each and sophomore Evan Spurlin-Renfroe grabbing seven rebounds. Last Friday, in the 66-50 setback to Walnut, Chelsea, who was the most valuable player in the El Monte Invitational with 60 points, 16 steals, 14 assists and 13 rebounds in those four games, came off the bench to record 24 points against Walnut.

Gahr began the season by taking part in the Cantwell Sacred Heart of Mary Tournament and not including Sundays in which high school athletes can’t compete, the Gladiators have played 12 games in 24 available days. Gahr will end the month with road games against Whittier High tonight, Cerritos High on Dec. 23 and will compete in the Nogales Invitational Dec. 27-30. Gahr already has four more wins than last season’s total.

“You just don’t know; at any point, any week you could be missing two or three guys to contact tracing,” Roper said. “It’s just that tournament stretch where you’re playing a lot of games; you have a lot of games coming at you. [This tournament] exposed some things that we need to work on, and like I said, we just have to get healthy and we have to get everybody together.”

 

 

 

 

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