Second half foul trouble, coupled with missed layups and free throws, were key factors as Whittier Christian’s boys basketball team fell to Western, 55-48, in the championship game of the 7th Annual Leon Davis Classic, Saturday night at Whittier Christian.
An aggressive Pioneers squad took it to the Heralds in the third quarter, drawing several fouls and attempts at the free throw line to take control.
In the fourth quarter, Whittier Christian couldn’t convert on its free throw opportunities, which aided Western in keeping its slim advantage.
“We knew they were going to bring more pressure in the second half, that rattled us,” said Sherwin Durham, Whittier Christian head coach. “They got back in the game quicker than we anticipated. We couldn’t really get anything going on the offensive end, but I like the fact that our guys battled until the end.”
In total, the Heralds were whistled for 24 fouls during the course of the game and had three players with four each.
Western didn’t fare much better with 19 fouls, but the Pioneers were more controlled in the second half with just seven fouls and at one point, had one foul opposed to the Heralds’ nine.
All-Tournament selection Tyler Chacon led the Heralds with 18 points, but missed two minutes late in the third quarter after re-aggravating an ankle injury suffered Dec. 10.
“He’s still a little bothered by that ankle, any quick stopping motion will aggravate it a bit,” Durham said.
He would return toward the end of the third quarter and finish the game.
Noah Evans provided nine points and 10 rebounds off the bench and Blake Coleman scored eight points for the Heralds.
“With our squad, if you play well you stay,” Durham said. “If we have a guy in foul trouble, we have another guy who can go in and give us some minutes. It’s good to have some depth and we’re just trying to juggle those guys and keep them happy.”
Coleman scored six points in the first quarter and Chacon scored seven in the second quarter as the Heralds gained a 21-14 advantage at the half.
However, Western came out blazing to start the third quarter with drives that resulted in free throw attempts.
Luckily for Whittier Christian, the Pioneers made just 3-of-9 attempts in the quarter, but Western’s quick defense limited the Heralds to six third-quarter points.
Western regained the lead midway through the quarter and never relinquished.
Jason Walker, selected as the tournament’s Most Valuable Player, scored five of his 12 points in the third quarter and Ricardo Lopez added six more as the Pioneers outscored the Heralds 17-6.
Foul trouble took over in the fourth quarter, where Western connected on 10-of-14 free throw attempts.
Western’s Humberto Monroy scored all eight of his points in the final quarter to push the Pioneers while the Heralds struggled at the line, making just 5-of-12 free throws down the stretch.
Chacon matched Monroy’s eight fourth-quarter points, but it wasn’t enough as Whittier Christian fell in the Leon Davis Classic Championship game for the second time in three seasons.
“I like the fact that we battled back from a seven-point deficit to cut it to a one-possession game in that fourth quarter,” Durham said. “Ultimately, we just missed easy shots, we had four or five missed uncontested layups, then you have the free throws, those two things have been killing us all season, hopefully we can correct it.”
Both losses, coincidentally, were against Empire League teams as the Heralds lost by one point to Pacifica in the 2010-11 championship.
However, Durham still believes that despite the loss, this year’s tournament provided much help for his team.
“I think every league game is going to be tough, so the more close games we play will help us become a better team down the stretch,” Durham said. “We’ve talked about seeing different styles and one of those will equate to a team we see in league play.”
Ryan Esslinger was also selected to the all-tournament team for Whittier Christian, while Lopez and DeAndre Harris (nine rebounds) were selected for Western.
The Heralds will have one more nonleague game against La Serna at home before Olympic League play starts up on Jan. 8.