Highlanders six-game win streak snapped by Claremont
by Nathan Percy
La Habra Journal
WHITTIER – The La Habra boys’ basketball team saw a six-game winning streak come to an end after a 59-48 loss to Claremont, Friday night at Whittier High in the 4th Annual Whittier Holiday Invitational.
The Highlanders struggled on the boards and had problems turning the ball over against Claremont’s aggressive defense. La Habra gave up 13 offensive rebounds, which led to a handful of second-chance points for the Wolfpack.
“We just got frustrated and didn’t deal with pressure well,” said Dave Ploog, Highlanders head coach. “We turned the ball over a lot and we kept talking about getting good rebounds and boxing out, but in the third quarter we weren’t able to do it. We weren’t going to crawl back in the game if we didn’t limit their offensive rebounds.”
On the offensive end, the Highlanders (8-3) struggled to finish near the basket and relied on 3-point shooting in the third quarter to decrease the deficit to one point.
However, Claremont (8-4) scored the final six points of the third quarter and pushed the lead to double digits early in the fourth quarter.
Adam Cooley led La Habra with 19 points, but struggled from the free throw line, making 6-of-11 shots from the stripe.
Zach Gray added nine points, all scored on 3-pointers, and Michael Banks scored eight points and led the team with nine rebounds, but went 4-of-15 from the field.
The Wolfpack jumped ahead early with a 3-pointer by forward Omar Mahmoud and baskets by Kyle Scalmanini and center Chris Edward before Ploog called an early timeout.
La Habra clawed back in behind nine forced turnovers. Cooley scored six points in the second quarter as the Highlanders outscored Claremont 12-6 and found themselves down by one point at the break.
Gray and Justin Jaimez combined for three 3-pointers to keep the deficit at 38-37, but Claremont’s Quincy Hales and Mahmoud combined for three baskets to end the quarter with a seven-point lead.
“We did a good job at making them miss the first shot, but then they would get the second one,” Ploog said. “That prevented us from getting back in the game, giving them those second chances.”
Mahmoud’s scoring and Edward’s rebounding proved to wear out the Highlanders in the second half. Mahmoud scored 12 of his team-high 19 points in the second half, while Edward recorded a double-double with 14 points and 12 rebounds.
Of Edward’s rebounds, five were hauled in on the offensive end. Scalmanini added seven second-half points and finished with nine points total.
The Highlanders continue the Whittier Holiday Invitational against John Glenn High at Whittier High School, tomorrow at 1:30 p.m.
“Playing a team like this is good because we’ll see teams like this down the road, like maybe a Troy,” Ploog said. “It will help prepare us for some league opponents, playing that quick, trapping type of team.”