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SAN GABRIEL VALLEY LEAGUE BASKETBALL Gahr boys find different ways to end first week of league play with victories

By Loren Kopff

@LorenKopff on Twitter

DOWNEY-The Gahr High boys basketball team sure knows how to make an entrance to its 2017 San Gabriel Valley League 10-game schedule. On Jan. 11, the Gladiators, who went a little over nine minutes without a field goal and trailed by as many as 11 points, defeated Lynwood High on a buzzer-beater.

Last Friday night against Warren High, Gahr closed out the first quarter on a 12-0 run and went out to rout the host Bears 71-48 to improve to 11-7 overall and 2-0 in league at the time.  Gahr outscored Warren 19-9 in the second quarter and held at least a 14-point lead for the final 18:37 of the game.

“We’ve just shown a lot of fight and played really good D in both games,” said Gahr head coach Richard Roper. “I thought on Wednesday night, we just showed a lot of mental toughness. A lot of shots weren’t going in; we missed 15 free throws. But we just kind of stayed the course and were able to pull it out.

“And then tonight, [we were] lackadaisical in the third quarter,” he continued. “I would like to see us have more of a killer instinct. But we came out in the first half and played real hard defensively.”

Gahr never trailed but the game was tied four times in the opening quarter. The beginning of the 12-0 run came with 2:49 remaining in the opening stanza on the second of three baskets in the quarter from senior Marvin Bragg. Following consecutive baskets from Cerroy Chenault in a span of 26 seconds in the second quarter, the Gladiators reeled off nine straight points, highlighted by a steal and basket from senior Tony Crosby, making it 33-16 with 2:10 left in the half.

Warren tried to get back in the game when it went on a 12-4 run to open the second half. But Crosby would score off of one of his three offensive rebounds and on the ensuing trip down the court, had a steal and scored to make it 49-31. Crosby scored nine points, had four rebounds and three steals. Meanwhile, Bragg led the Gladiators with 16 points and nine boards while junior Gary Williams added 15 points and four steals.

Senior Julio Maldonado (10 points, five rebounds) and junior Jarrel King (five points, three assists) were also solid against the Bears as was senior Dominic King, who in his third game, scored eight points and had 10 rebounds. It was the first game in which he had scored.

“Jarrel King and Tony Crosby do a lot of things that don’t show up in the stat sheet,” Roper said. “But just their hustle and…Wednesday night, Tony hit two [three-pointers] and Jarrel hit one in the fourth quarter between them and that was key.”

“He’s a good player coming off the bench,” Roper said of Dominic King. “If that guy is your sixth man, you’re in pretty good shape.”

Gahr, which routed Paramount High 79-28 this past Wednesday night, will visit Downey High tonight before facing Etiwanda High on Saturday at Azusa Pacific University. The Gladiators will round out the first half of league action on Wednesday at home against Dominguez High. And, had it not been for a one-point loss to St. Joseph/Notre Dame High on Dec. 29 in the Torrey Pines Holiday Classic, the Gladiators would possibly be riding an eight-game winning streak.

“I thought we really came together in San Diego,” Roper said. “We should have won the tournament in San Diego. We lost at the buzzer in the semis, and then that team won the championship by 20.”

Prior to the boys game, the Gahr girls started off slow and couldn’t recover in a 54-38 loss to the Bears. Warren scored the first seven points and led 17-6 after the first quarter. After going into halftime down 26-16, senior Lauren Magno nailed a three-pointer off a pass from junior Nori Smith and senior Alana Soltis sank a free throw to bring Gahr to within six points. But Warren pulled away with a 13-3 run in five minutes.

Junior Naomi Ellis came off the bench to score 10 points and pull down seven rebounds while Magno, also coming off the bench, added eight points. The starting five for Gahr (8-7, 0-2) combined to score 16 points. In addition to preceding the boys against Paramount, Downey and Dominguez, the Gahr girls will face Long Beach Wilson High on Saturday.