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BOYS BASKETBALL Artesia, Charles have a giant game against Ganesha, rack up season-high in points

By Loren Kopff

@LorenKopff on Twitter

It may not have been the prettiest game on Artesia High’s docket for the 2017-2018 season, but head coach Ray Walker will take the win and as many as his Pioneers can get this month. The Artesia boys basketball team set a season-high in points scored and blasted Ganesha High 81-38 last Thursday evening, improving to 8-3 with one more four-game tournament to play before resuming Suburban League play.

“We’re going in the right direction,” Walker said. “We lost a couple of close ones, but also won some closes ones too. So, it could have gone either way. We’re fortunate and we’ll play well at times. We’re excited.”

The Pioneers have had just two winning seasons since winning their second straight California Interscholastic Federation state championship back in 2007, and both of those have come under Walker’s watch. Last season, Artesia went 15-12 and three seasons before that, he guided the team to a 17-11 mark. So, the prospects of having another winning campaign look good, especially when the team is situated in a tough league with everyone expecting Mayfair High to dominate and Cerritos High to be the second best team in the circuit. And, all of this is coming with just five returning players on the roster.

“Pleased, very pleased,” Walker said of the season thus far. “We have a good group, but we’re not very big. But we have some talent and we’re starting to play a little better. So that’s always good.”

The Pioneers were in cruise control against the Giants from the very beginning, connecting on seven straight three-pointers and building a 27-5 first quarter lead. Sophomore Jeremiah Charles was the big producer in the quarter, hitting on all six of his shots taken from the field, including four three-pointers. Junior D’Andre Johnson also hit a pair of three-pointers for his two attempts in the quarter.

Artesia ended the half on a 9-0 run with Charles going deep again, then scoring off his lone steal of the contest. The hosts would build on the momentum they had going into the break by beginning the second half on a 16-0 run as Charles added two more perimeter shots. He ended the game with a career-high 27 points, second most by any Artesia player this season, and was 10 of 11 from the field.

“He’s a good shooter and the last few games, he’s come alive,” Walker said. “He’s a sophomore, so he’s still getting acclimated to the speed of the game on the varsity level. But he’s been getting better every day.”

Charles was just a part of a hot-shooting team that hit 10 consecutive field goals to end the first quarter after missing the first three of the game, was 19 of 31 from the field in the first half and shot 58 percent for the game. Senior Carlos Patino De Anda scored a career-high nine points while Johnson also added nine points. All three of those players came off the bench as the starters scored 23 points, led by junior Heder Gladden’s eight points. Gladden also had six rebounds, three steals and two assists.

“We’re deeper than we’ve been in the six years I’ve been here,” Walker said. “So, a lot of the players who were coming off the bench today have started previously. From day to day, we have about two to three players that will start daily and the others a spot or two. It just will depend on opponents or how well the kids have done at practice, or just a feel.”

The win capped off a perfect week that also included a 72-55 win over Bellflower High on Dec. 18 and a 47-44 overtime win over Garey High two days later. Earlier in the season, the Pioneers captured the consolation championship of the El Monte Tournament and two of the three losses have each come by three points. The Pioneers played Western High this past Wednesday and Hawthorne High the next night in the opening rounds of the Rancho Alamitos Tournament, which ends on Saturday. Artesia jumps back into league action on Jan. 5 when it travels to Cerritos.

“We have a chance to do pretty well,” Walker said. “But there are some very talented teams. There’s always a Mayfair, there’s always a La Mirada and then Cerritos the past few years has been very talented. Usually we’re able to give those teams a run for a bit. Hopefully this year, with a little more depth, we can challenge them.”