CHS boys hold on for well-deserved 78-74 win

The Claremont Wolfpack boys and girls basketball teams featured in a home double-header against the South Hills Huskies on Friday evening. Both Wolfpack sides endured cagey starts, and strong second-half performances brought each team the victory in front of a fired-up audience.

Friday night’s blockbuster athletic schedule continued with the Wolfpack boys basketball team taking on the Huskies. An explosive third quarter saw Claremont push its lead to 9 points. South Hills rallied in the fourth quarter by draining five 3-pointers, but were unable to catch the Wolfpack, who won the game 78-74.

Claremont came into the game having beaten Ayala by 24 points last Wednesday. Meanwhile, South Hills were taken apart defensively by unbeaten Chino Hills in their last game. In their most recent encounter, the Wolfpack handled the Huskies 70-37, so it’s fair to say they were heavy favorites.

The nature of the game during the first quarter belied recent trends. South Hills came out strong and played to their strengths. Huskies guards Jeriko Santos and Jacob Estrada each tallied huge nights shooting from the field, with 26 and 22 points to their respective names.

Shooting guard Omar Mahmoud came through with a 3-pointer from the corner after Kalil Glover’s smooth left-handed hook shot. Glover then added a jumper from the free throw line, as he finished the game 9 for 13 shooting from the field.

Midway through the second quarter, South Hills turned the tables and established a 3 point lead of their own. In the few minutes before halftime, Claremont guard Brandon Brown helped erase that deficit. Brown picked up the ball and drove inside, laying up and in for 2 of his 11 points on the night. Brown then dished inside to Max Allen, who finished in traffic to regain Claremont’s lead. The Wolfpack went into the half up 30-28.

Claremont’s offense continued to click throughout the second half. Brown scored 2 more buckets on drives inside, and the Wolfpack began to dominate the boards. After a wayward Huskies effort, Mahmoud grabbed the rebound and ran the length of the floor. Mahmoud decided to take it himself, got fouled, and converted the free throw to rile up the crowd. Claremont then worked the ball around the floor, with Brown passing to Hackett, who buried the 3-pointer.

It was a nervous last few minutes. As South Hills sank shot after shot to close the gap and fouled Wolfpack ball handlers to lengthen the game, Claremont was only able to convert 10 out of 17 free throws down the stretch. Right on cue, Glover stepped up to keep the game out of the Huskies’ reach with a spinning fall-away jumper to follow an easy-finish down-low. Edward ignited his team with an emphatic alley-oop finish, and sealed his team’s win when he drew a foul and converted the 3-point play. Claremont finished the game with 5 players scoring in double figures, and a final tally of 78-74.

With the win, the Wolfpack retained their number-3 spot in the Sierra League, one game behind second-place Damien. Claremont played Rancho Verde the following night and lost 61-33. Fortunately, this was a nonconference matchup, so it did not significantly affect Claremont’s playoff credentials.

The Wolfpack have a chance to move into a tie for second place when they take on the Damien Spartans at home tonight, Wednesday, January 30,  at 6:30 p.m. Archrival Damien is also coming off a tough nonconference defeat to Corona Centennial. Claremont then travels to Chino Hills on Friday, February 1 at 6:30 p.m.

CHS girls shut-down defense leads team to 47-43 win

The Lady Wolfpack showed a commitment to defense throughout the game. The Huskies came into town on the back of a narrow victory over Chino Hills 2 days before, and looking to repeat the 24-point win they scored over Claremont less than a month ago. Claremont turned the tide by halftime, shutting down the Huskie’s inside game and holding out for a 47-43 victory.

Claremont lost by 19 points to first-place Ayala last Wednesday.

“We made a number of defensive changes for this game. We defended well as a group and played patient basketball,” Coach Darryl Kennedy said.

The Pack pressed the Huskies up the full length of the court from the first possession. Claremont’s offense came to life when guard Jessica Abrolat scored with a layup. A few minutes later, Abrolat cut in the lane and fed Danna Robles for an easy finish. However, Claremont defenders were struggling to deal with Huskies forward Imani Payton, and she and Sarah Madrigal kept South Hills’ offense going with dribble penetration and high-percentage shooting.

In the second quarter, Claremont kept up the full court pressure. The Wolfpack forced turnovers and increased their offense. Katie Porter came off the bench midway through the period and swished a couple of midrange jumpers, while Emeril Ruiz sank Claremont’s only 3-pointer of the game. Fouls were still a concern, nevertheless, as both Robles and shot blocker Kegee Limbe had to be substituted before the half.

Claremont came out for the third quarter down one point, and began to assert its dominance underneath the basket. Both Limbe and Melissa Oei blocked Huskies’ shots. Oei then drove inside and scored with a layup, while Robles scored 2 baskets, cleaning up her teammates’ missed shots and tipping them back in.

With the Wolfpack leading by 2 points, the fourth quarter proved to be a choppy period. South Hills tied the score at 39 with 6 minutes remaining. Then, Kaya Brandl’s block set up Abrolat’s fast break and dish to Oei, who finished inside to break the tie.

Abrolat earned top-performer honors in the next few exchanges. She drew a charge on South Hills’ Madrigal, then stole the ball down low and passed ahead for a streaking Porter to finish.

The Huskies kept it close, and South Hills guards Brittany Wang and Desirae Merjil showed their range with timely 3-point shooting. The Wolfpack produced a resolute stop on defense with the clock winding down. Abrolat blocked the Huskies’ Payton down low, then scored a bucket of her own after another steal. Abrolat ran the length of the floor and laid the ball in to seal the Pack’s 47-43 victory.

Abrolat finished with 15 points, 3 blocks and 7 assists, and Robles had 12 points and 7 boards. Coach Kennedy was especially pleased with his team’s inside players.

“Danna and Kegee played extremely well, considering they were each in foul trouble for most of the game,” Kennedy said. “That was the first time this season anyone on our team has drawn a charge.”

Claremont now sits in fourth place in the Sierra League with a 2-4 conference record. The Wolfpack take on the St. Lucy’s Regents on the road this afternoon, Wednesday, January 30 at 4:45 p.m., St. Lucy’s recently suffered a heavy loss to Ayala, and are winless in league play. Then, on Friday, February 1 at 4:45 p.m. Claremont hosts Chino Hills. This game will likely be more of a challenge, as Chino Hills are currently second in league. After this week, there are only 2 more regular season games.

—Chris Oakley


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