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SAN GABRIEL VALLEY LEAGUE BASKETBALL: Dominguez posts rare doubleheader sweep against Gahr in league opener

Gahr High junior Clarissa Heredia tries to get past a pair of Dominguez High defenders in last Friday night’s San Gabriel Valley League opener. Heredia scored nine points and grabbed six rebounds in a 57-36 loss.PHOTO BY ARMANDO VARGAS, Contributing photographer


By Loren Kopff
@LorenKopff on Twitter

The San Gabriel Valley League opener didn’t go the way the Gahr High boys and girls varsity basketball teams had hoped for when they hosted Dominguez High last Friday night. The boys, who have gone through somewhat of a roller coaster season, were nipped by a pair of points while the girls, who have struggled all season, were dominated by over 20 points and lost to the Dons for the first time in a decade.

The boys led throughout most of the first half and as many as six points with less than half a minute before halftime. But the third quarter would be the telling story as Dominguez outscored the Gladiators by eight points and went on for a 67-65 victory.

“They got out and transitioned on us,” said Gahr head coach Ricky Roper. “Our game plan was to try to make them execute to half court and they just got too many transition baskets.”

There were three lead changes in the first half with Gahr holding its first advantage nearly midway through the first quarter when the second of two baskets from senior Ryan Young capped a 6-0 run. The Gladiators would maintain their lead until the exact same point of the second quarter when Cristian Butler put the Dons back in front at 22-20. But on the ensuing drive down the court, a three-pointer from sophomore Moses Dollar started an 8-0 run that carried Gahr to a 30-26 halftime lead.

Gahr would have its largest lead of the night, 35-28, after a three-pointer from senior Jordan Simpson about two minutes into the second half. After that, Dominguez went on an 11-2 run, Towards the end of the stanza, Roper called a timeout with his team trailing 44-39 and at that point, his team had connected on two of eight shooting from the field in the third quarter while the Dons had missed twice in nine attempts since halftime.

“We battled, and we competed,” Roper said. “We missed a couple of lay-ups, a couple of chippies. We gave ourselves a chance. So, there’s no shame in this effort.”

Gahr began the fourth quarter with a three-point play from senior Isaiah Knowles, making it 47-46. Dominguez responded with five straight points but Gahr rallied and eventually took its last lead with 3:42 remaining when senior Justin Stephens scored off one of his five offensive rebounds. Within the final 20 seconds, Stephens hit a crucial three-pointer and Young sank a pair of three throws, making it 66-65 with 10.2 ticks left. But Elijah Evans iced the game with a free throw almost four seconds later and a turnover cost Gahr a chance of attempting at least a tying basket.

Stephens led the Gladiators with a career-high 25 points and grabbed 10 rebounds while Knowles and Young added 15 and 13 points respectively. Sophomore Jalen Pitre also grabbed eight rebounds. This was the fourth straight loss to Dominguez and the sixth out of the last seven meetings.

“They’re pretty talented; they’re beating everyone else in league, too,” Roper said of Dominguez. “They went 9-1 last year, so, they’ve been the team to beat.”

Gahr would lose to Lynwood High 65-62 this past Monday to drop to 11-9 overall and 0-2 in league. Gahr had begun the season with three straight wins, before going 4-3 over the next seven games. Heading into league action, the Gladiators had split their last eight games.

“We’ve been up and down, so, we have to get ready [for league],” Roper said. “League is tough. We have four games in [a span of] a week and a half.”

Prior to the game, the Gahr girls were hoping to put a horrible non-league season behind them and start league with a win against a team they had defeated 18 straight times. But Dominguez went on a 14-0 run in a span of 5:20 from the first quarter to the second and cruised to a 57-36 victory. The Dons built as much as a 16-point lead in the second quarter as Gahr scored consecutive baskets once in the half.

“Today, we struggled a little bit with the bigs,” said Gahr assistant coach Darrell Gillcrese. “Obviously, we have to do a better job on offensive and defensive rebounding. But overall, I’m okay with the effort that we had today. Obviously, I would have loved better. We’ve played some tough teams in the preseason and as we progress through the rest of the league, I think we’re going to get better.”

Dominguez, which had been a consistent fifth or sixth place team in the league for several seasons, was up 18-5 before junior Kayla Miyake sank back to back three-pointers. But the Dons proceeded to go on a 13-8 run to end the half. Then with the score 42-22 late in the third quarter, Gahr scored seven straight points to end the third quarter down by 13 points.

“We run with nine [players] right now and when you’re playing a big team, it’s really physical on both sides of the floor,” Gillcrese said. “We got a little burned out. We tried to get a little run there. We got a little bit of early foul trouble, so that also made us have to change up our scheme a little bit when we wanted to go man to man all the time. We had to kind of go into a zone just to preserve our players to get through to the fourth quarter.”

Miyake led Gahr with 14 points while senior Claindaire Francisco and junior Clarissa Heredia each added nine points. It was the first time since the first game of the season that Heredia, the team’s leading scorer, was held to under 10 points. She was also saddled with foul trouble as she picked up three in the first quarter. Francisco also grabbed 10 rebounds and seemed to be all over the court throughout the contest.

“She definitely came out with an attack mentality,” Gillcrese said. “Two claps for Claindaire going at it. Obviously, she finished several buckets at the hole. That’s the way we need her to be.”

Gahr dropped a 73-21 decision to Lynwood this past Monday to fall to 4-13 overall, 0-2 in league and a sixth straight loss. Both Gahr teams travelled to Warren High this past Wednesday and will host Paramount High tonight before ending the first round of league action at Downey High on Wednesday.