Sports

Whittier Christian beats Ontario, advances to championship

By Nathan Percy
La Habra Journal

The Whittier Christianlogo-heralds boys basketball team is heading back to the Leon Davis Classic championship game after a 69-52 victory over Ontario in pool play at Whittier Christian High.

The Heralds last made the championship game of their own tournament two years ago, falling by one point to Pacifica.

This opportunity didn’t come easy for the Heralds, who immediately found themselves in a hole after the Jaguars started the game on a 13-2 run, which included scoring the game’s first nine points.

Christian Beltran led the charge with six of those points and four others contributed with one basket each in the run.

After a timeout, the Heralds went on a 13-2 run of their own as the defense forced bad shots and fought for rebounds to tie the score at 15-15.

“There was an effort to make body contact, we want to be more physical,” said Sherwin Durham, Whittier Christian head coach. “We have 20 fouls to give and so we look at all the big guys and see how aggressive they are. We were pleased with that adjustment tonight.”

The momentum was short-lived though, as Ontario regained a slight advantage in the second quarter thanks to 13 first-half points from Beltran.

Blake Coleman and Tyler Chacon both hit 3-pointers to keep the Heralds close behind, but the Jaguars’ Albert Gomez hit a runner at the buzzer to put Ontario on top 34-29 at the break.

In the third quarter, the Heralds focused their game plan on a different aspect, quick and aggressive defense.

Chacon began connecting on the offensive side with help from Noah Evans and the team held the Jaguars to five third-quarter points in turning a five-point halftime deficit into a seven-point lead heading into the fourth quarter.

“We were a little disappointed in the way the first half ended and so we got on them a little bit in the locker room,” Durham said. “The kids just came out with energy, they responded in a positive way.”

Led by Chacon, the Heralds ran away in the fourth quarter.

The senior scored 13 of his game-high 27 points in the final frame, most of which came off turnovers on the fast break.

“We’re glad to have him back, when he wasn’t there we were missing those points,” Durham said. “He seems to be healthy, he’s a big plus for what we’re trying to do, his point production is huge and he’s our leading scorer.”

Evans played an important role early, with four first quarter points off the bench after Shawn Stolt, who started at center, found himself in foul trouble.

Evans, a sophomore, finished with 10 points and Ryan Esslinger added nine more to go with nine rebounds for the Heralds.

Beltran led Ontario with 18 points and 11 rebounds to become the second player in as many nights to record a double-double against the Heralds.

Gomez provided help with 13 points, including two 3-pointers.

Ontario will play in the third-place game tomorrow at 4:30 p.m. at Whittier Christian.

The Heralds will follow at 6 p.m. in the Leon Davis Classic championship game for the second time in the last three seasons.

“We’re glad to be back, it was a battle to get to this point,” Durham said. “The kids wanted to represent this school in the championship and I think that was key tonight.”

Started in 1995, the La Habra Journal is an independent community news source serving the cities of La Habra and La Habra Heights.