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CIF-SOUTHERN SECTION DIVISION III-AA BOYS BASKETBALL FINALS Fourth quarter shots wouldn’t fall for Gahr, lose in final minutes to Sonora


Gahr senior guard Jeremy Carlyle attempts a shot despite being surrounded by Christian Rhodes (#0), Steven Murphy (#31) and Jason McClung of Sonora in the first half of last Saturday morning’s California Interscholastic Federation-Southern Section Division III-AA championship game. Carlyle scored 10 points in Gahr’s 66-54 loss to the Raiders. PHOTO BY ARMANDO VARGAS






By Loren Kopff


ANAHEIM-The top two teams in the California Interscholastic Federation-Southern Section Division III-AA played like they belonged in the championship game at the Honda Center. Second ranked and San Gabriel Valley League champion Gahr trailed top ranked Sonora once in the first half and twice in the third quarter last Saturday morning.

But the Raiders went on a 16-0 run in the fourth quarter, erasing a seven-point deficit early in the stanza and rallied for a 66-54 victory over the Gladiators. After shooting 50 percent from the field in the first quarter and leading by five points at the half, Gahr went into a big time shooting funk at the worst possible time, hitting on seven of 33 second half shots.

“It was a great game; two great teams,” said Gahr head coach Ricky Roper. “[I have] no regrets about our effort. We left it on the floor. We were about five minutes away from finishing it off. They made some shots and we didn’t. That’s how it goes sometimes.”

Gahr trailed Sonora 44-42 with 2:49 remaining in the third quarter, just the third time up to that point it was behind the Raiders. But the Gladiators went on a 9-0 run that was capped by a steal and basket from sophomore Marvin Bragg just 57 seconds into the fourth quarter. That would be the last time Gahr scored until Bragg hit a three-pointer with 45.8 seconds left to play. That ended a zero for 11 slump from the field and made the score 60-54. Sonora’s Josh Rodriguez and Christan Rhodes combined to hit six free throws the rest of the way.

Gahr (25-7) was off and running in the first quarter with Bragg scoring eight points, including a pair of three-pointers, and senior Gregory Carlyle and junior Justin Smith each scoring six points. The Gladiators, who won the II-A title in 2011, led 22-14 after the first quarter and built a 28-19 lead with 6:41 left in the first half on a three-pointer from Smith after he grabbed an offensive rebound.

But in the third quarter, Sonora began to make its shots while Gahr began to struggle. The Raiders went on an 8-0 run to take a 39-37 lead following a bucket from Aashad Womack at the 5:11 mark of the stanza. Following a trifecta from senior Jeremy Carlyle which put Gahr in front 42-39, Sonora regained a two-point lead on a three-pointer from Kevin Marlow.

“Both teams had a whole week to prepare for each other,” Roper said. “So, it pretty much played out like we thought. They made a good adjustment going to the zone and we still got some looks. They just didn’t fall. But you have to give them credit. They made great plays and that’s a great team, as are we.”

Bragg led Gahr with 15 points and eight rebounds while Smith added 15 points and four rebounds and Jeremy Carlyle pitched in with 10 points. Gahr shot a dismal 29.4 percent from the field for the game and was dominated on the glass as Sonora grabbed 45 rebounds to Gahr’s 29.

“They just got to a few 50-50 balls before we did,” Roper said. “Also we missed a lot of shots. That has a lot to do with their 45 rebounds.”

“I thought both teams played a really good game,” Bragg said.

Last season, the Gladiators were bounced out of the first round of the playoffs by Palos Verdes 78-77. But this season, Gahr came out with a vengeance, winning its first seven games by averaging 89.4 points a game during that time. Four if its six regular season losses were by five points or fewer and the 54 points scored in the championship game were a season-low.

“We thought we could have gone farther last season,” Roper said. “We had a lot of guys back. We had a lot of experience. We felt like we could have won a CIF championship. I’ve been coaching varsity for about 12 seasons and this was as rewarding of a season that I’ve been a part of. These guys are very coachable. I enjoyed every second of this team.”

Gahr advanced to the Southern California Division III state regionals where it defeated host Porterville 76-69 this past Wednesday night. The Gladiators, seeded ninth in the regionals, will visit top seeded Cathedral on Saturday.