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NEWS AND NOTES FROM PRESS ROW – Gahr boys basketball come out flat against Fairmont Prep, losing skid reaches three games

December 6, 2023

By Loren Kopff • @LorenKopff on Twitter

BELLFLOWER-The Gahr High boys basketball, which saw the 2022-2023 season end in a 29-18 loss to Tustin High in the CIF-Southern Section Division 3AA playoffs, began this season scoring 53, 68 and 49 points in its first three games. But tough times are hitting the Gladiators lately, and it reached the boiling point at halftime when they faced Fairmont Prep this past Tuesday in pool play action of the St. John Bosco Braves Varsity Winter Classic. Girley’s stern message to his team at halftime, facing a 29-10 deficit, could be heard throughout the lobby of the gymnasium. There was some response in the third quarter, but eventually, Gahr was trounced by the Huskies 49-24. 

“I wish I could blame it on the early start, but to be honest with you, our mental fortitude is not worthy to be right now,” said Girley. “We’re lacking a consistent leader; there’s no one to provide us with that umph. I think…things need to go well for our kids to start believing in themselves and believe in our concepts. I’m at a loss for words on that one. That’s two games in a row where as soon as we start the game, there’s no energy. There’s no fucus; there’s no communication. For whatever reason, we’re coming out in a reactionary position instead of being proactive.”

Fairmont Prep scored the first seven points of the game before Gahr finally got on the board nearly halfway through the opening stanza when junior Uchenna Okoli scored consecutive baskets. A three-point play from senior Miles Merchant with 2:09 left in the third made it a 10-7 contest. After that, the Huskies went on a 13-0 run before Okoli scored at the 3:45 mark of the second quarter.

As Okoli was saddled with four fouls before halftime, the Gladiators were deplorable in the shooting department, connecting on four of 20 shots from the field in the half and seven of 40 for the game. No other Gahr player had two made field goals and Okoli, who still played most of the second half with foul trouble, wouldn’t foul out.

“He was the only one playing,” said Girley. “He was the only one giving me some effort. A closer, tighter game; a game that’s later in the season with something on the line, sure, I would manage his minutes a lot better. But in this situation, unless a miracle fell out of the sky, it was going to be tough for us to come back. I just wanted to reward the kid for his effort.”

Okoli led the Gladiators with eight points and seven rebounds while Merchant and freshman Julian Cabral each had six points. Merchant also added half a dozen boards as Girley and his squad search for answers while in this tough tournament as Gahr was slated to face Rancho Dominguez Prep on Dec. 7.

“I think a little bit of [our scoring slump] is the talent has increased,” said Girley. “More so, it’s a mental thing. I think sometimes we play the jersey instead of the opponent. That’s where the confidence and the leadership comes into play. We don’t have anybody that’s able to rally the troops yet.”

In other boys basketball action, Artesia High is 5-3 as it visits Segerstrom High on Friday and goes to Santa Fe High on Tuesday while Cerritos High, which dropped a 64-56 overtime affair to Sunny Hills High this past Tuesday, went to Kennedy High on Dec. 7 and will host Orangewood Academy on Saturday before travelling to Marina High on Tuesday.

John Glenn High took its 5-2 mark to Samueli Academy this past Wednesday and the Eagles visited Carson Magnolia Science Academy on Dec. 7. They will also welcome Collins Family on Wednesday.

The hottest team in the area is La Mirada High, which improved to 10-1 with pool play wins over Rancho Dominguez Prep (65-37) and Hesperia High (74-54) this past Tuesday and Wednesday respectively in the St. John Bosco Braves Winter Classic. The Matadores will face the host school on Friday in a semifinal contest, then either play for the championship or third place on Saturday.

Norwalk High was 2-4 entering this week with road games at Segerstrom and Workman High before playing in the Loara Tournament next week while Valley Christian High is 4-5 and Whitney High sporting a 6-2 record after an 75-34 win against Calvary Chapel Downey High in the Grizzly Classic this past Tuesday. The Wildcats faced Hawthorne High on Dec. 7 and will host Santa Monica High on Wednesday.