Heralds edged by Troy for Leon Davis Christmas Classic championship
by Jeremiah Girard
La Habra Journal
A pair of runs by the Troy Warriors proved to be too much for the Whittier Christian boys basketball team as it fell 59-51 in the championship game of the Leon Davis Christmas Classic, Monday night at home.
The second run was the back-breaker, as the Warriors turned a tie ballgame into a 10-point lead to close out the third quarter.
“Troy executed their game much better than we did tonight,” said senior guard and captain, Ryan Esslinger. “We did not play our best, but they played a great game.”
The Warriors came out hot and jumped out to a 9-0 lead over the Heralds. Whittier Christian spent the rest of the game trying to battle back and was never able to have the lead at any point.
The Heralds’ comeback effort was led by junior guard Kaipo Villeza. In the first half alone, he knocked down four three-point shots and went into the break with 12 points.
He was matched shot for shot by Troy’s Chad Rollins, who also made four three pointers in the first half. Both finished the game with a game-high 17 points, and five made three pointers.
Troy (10-5) was able to do an excellent job containing the Heralds’ leading scorer, Jake Rivera. He was held scoreless in the first half and only scored 10 points in the second, which was under his season average of 15.9 points per game.
However, even with no point production from Rivera in the first half, the Heralds (8-5) kept pace with Troy in the second quarter and had a manageable 29-25 deficit heading into the half.
“We can definitely look back and say that we fought hard tonight,” Esslinger said. “We definitely just need to cut down on mistakes and keep the intensity up.
In the third quarter, the Heralds came back to force a tie. Immediately after, the Warriors rattled off a 10- run and shut down any thoughts of a comeback for the Heralds.
Even though the Heralds outscored Troy 18-16 in the final quarter it was not enough. Esslinger fouled out with less than two minutes left and finished with 10 points.
“When we look back at this tournament, it will definitely be a positive experience for this team,” Esslinger said. “We were able to pull off a five-game winning streak and get some positive momentum heading into league.”
Whittier Christian will open up league play on January 14 at home against Marantha, at 7 p.m, but will first play a nonleague game at La Serna, this Saturday at 7:30 p.m.