Posted on 01 January 2015 by La Habra Journal
By Luke Wilson
La Habra Journal
Champions of the Leon Davis Holiday Classic were crowned Wednesday night, as the Whittier Christian Heralds defeated the Buena Park Coyotes 57-50. The third time proved to be the charm for the Heralds as it was their third straight appearance in the Leon Davis Classic Finals, but their first tournament victory.
“We’ve hosted this tournament every year now for I can’t remember how many years,” said Whittier Christian Athletic Director Rolland Esslinger, “It’s a tough tournament to win. We’ve got close a few times over the last couple of years, and we had to beat a really good team to pull it off this year. It was a great game.”
The game was electric from the very beginning with both teams not taking long to establish their style of play. Buena Park immediately battered their way into the paint, earning offensive rebounds and early free throw attempts thanks in no small part to Forward Deontae Beckham who had six of the team’s eight free throw attempts in the first half.
“We kind of got exposed tonight with our defensive rebounding,” said Heralds Head Coach Sherwin Durham, “there are some athletic teams in this league, so we’re going to have to put a body on them.”
While rebounding wasn’t a strength for the Heralds in this matchup, they were able to put their own stamp on the game and show why they’re called the “Runnin’ Heralds.”
“We’re really good at running the floor,” said Heralds Forward Justin Osborn, who earned an All-Tournament mention, “that’s probably our biggest strength.”
Every time Whittier Christian yanked down a rebound, there were options streaking down the floor, usually led by Osborn who had 11 points with a 50 percent field goal percentage. Between fast break points, and effective 3-point shooting, the Heralds were able to make up for their rebounding.
The Heralds were raining down 3’s seemingly all match whenever there was an opening in the Coyotes zone defense, and it worked thanks to Guards Kaipo Villeza and Christian Alvis-Labadie who respectively shot 50 percent from behind the arc on a combined 12 3-point attempts.
“We don’t see a lot of zone defense, “ Durham explained. “We see a lot of man typically. We feel like we have some good perimeter shooters, and when these kids get open looks they tend to knock ’em down.”
Alvis-Labadie earned MVP honors for the Tournament after leading his team in scoring in the Finals with 16 points.
“It’s an honor. Hopefully I’ll be able to get another one soon,” Alvis-Labadiec said. Otherwise every comment was all team, team, team. “It feels real good to get Coach a tournament win. That means a lot to us.”
The game came down to the wire after a hectic fourth quarter. Frequent fouls, including a technical by the Coyotes, tipped things in the Heralds favor late. As the clock winded down, the Coyotes forced the Heralds to make free throws down the stretch, but a couple clutch shots from the line by Villeza were able to seal the deal and earn the eleventh win of the season for Whittier Christian.
The Heralds season rolls on Saturday, January 3 when they take on the La Serna Lancers at home at 6:30 p.m. This will be the last game for Whittier Christian before they begin their run through the difficult Olympic League.