Pack can’t hold on in CIF tournament

The energy never stopped as fans on both sides chanted for their basketball teams Tuesday night. Right after Elsinore fans to a moment to breath, Claremont fired back with numerous chants, including “I believe that we will win!”

Despite this energy, the Wolfpack lost to the Tigers, 68-66, in the second round of CIF playoffs at Claremont High, ending their overall record with 20 wins. Head coach Stan Tolliver said the boys fought their heart out, kept most of the game within a 5-point margin, but finally fell short at the end.

“They were making free throws,” Tolliver said. “We were making plays, but were not converting to our advantage.”

Claremont fell into an 11-point deficit at the end of the third quarter, 53-42. But senior guard Omar Mahmoud led the Wolfpack to a possible comeback, from quick steals to breathless three-point shots, but the Tigers had control when the clock struck zero.

The Wolfpack clearly made the Tigers work for every point.

At the end of the first quarter, down 20-11, the Wolfpack managed to give a show for their fans. Whether it was freshman guard Kyle Scalmanini’s back-to-back scores, or senior center Chris Edward’s defense, they regained control 25-22.

As the game progressed, fans in the bleachers reignited with both shouting “Let’s go Tigers/Claremont.” The Tigers regained momentum and lead at the end of the first half, 34-28.

In the third quarter, Mahmoud started to take action and lead the Wolfpack for a possible comeback. Steals, three-pointers, assists. He used everything to change the game.

“It is either win or go home,” Mahmoud said. “You got to try everything for that win.”

But with Claremont still trailing, coach Tolliver called a timeout when the Tigers took the lead 51-40.

“I told them, ‘you got to keep fighting. You can’t give in,’” Tolliver said. “They (Claremont) are fighters.”

Fans did see Claremont’s intensity throughout the game. They were moments where Edward was tangled with a Tiger, yet held strong to make another rebound and followed it with a score making it 59-54.

“It was just my drive to keep going,” Edward said. “This was my last game of the season and I wanted it to end well.”

Despite the game’s ending, along with the Wolfpack’s season, senior guard Baron Franklin and Mahmoud never showed signs of resistance for the entire 32 minutes. Whether it was Franklin assisting Mahmoud or Franklin diving for the ball, each member of the Wolfpack ended their season strong enough to remind fans there’s more action to come next season.

“Coach always told us to never give up,” Franklin said. “This was the first home game for us in CIF and everything was at stake.”

—Alex Forbess


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