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Slow start ends with solid win for boys basketball

The Claremont High School boys basketball team extended their recent winning streak to seven by defeating surprisingly quick Rowland Heights, 67-56, on Wednesday night in Claremont.

With a 13-2 record, the Pack will bring a lot of momentum to their first Palomares League matchup against Bonita on Friday at home.

Claremont did not start the game looking like a winning team. In spite of dominating both offensive and defensive rebounds, the Pack could not get anything to drop and ended the quarter down a point 10-9.

That all changed early in the second quarter as coach Stan Tolliver inserted junior Sam Yagoda at guard. Yagoda, who is in his first year on varsity, jumpstarted the Wolfpack by hitting back-to-back three-pointers from the same location. From then on, Claremont never trailed.

“I wanted to get our energy going,” said Yagoda following the game.

Junior Davis Haley was the night’s top-scoring player with 15 points, followed by Yagoda at 11 and senior Harlan Maas with 10.

On a night when Claremont’s shooting was noticeably off, their rebounding was right on. Most important was their ability to grab offensive rebounds and immediately convert to scores.

Twice in the third quarter after junior Kyle Scalmanini hit the rim, Haley picked up the rebound and got easy layups. That combo held off a run by Rowland Heights that had whittled the Pack’s lead to six points.

Sophomore Christian Jordan led the way with 11 rebounds, followed by Scalmanini with eight.

Going into the fourth with a comfortable lead, Claremont went into preservation mode, which worked despite an excellent effort from the Raiders’ Jonathan Hu and Phillip Aguiniga.

As time ran out, there was a last-gasp effort directed by Rowland Heights’ coach Jason Villanueva, who had his team foul Claremont as soon as they touched the ball. The result was a somewhat comical string of free throws and whistles until, with 40 seconds to go, Villanueva conceded and let the clock run out.

“Rowland is a good basketball team.  They are very disciplined, run their offense well and are well-coached,” said Coach Tolliver. “I think we were off our game. We haven’t played in a week; we had a few days off after the last holiday tournament, so I think we had a little bit of game rust on us.”

He also praised Rowland Heights.

“[It was] not unexpected that they would give us a fight,” he said.

Before the break, Claremont won the Wilson High School tournament, defeating Whittier 83-68 in the final. “We really had a great team effort. We were moving the ball around a lot and shot the ball really well,” said Coach Tolliver, adding, “Tyler Fraser really stepped up his game over there, and Kyle Scalmanini ran a good foregame.”

For his efforts, Fraser was awarded the tournament’s MVP award.

As the Pack looks forward to league play, their first game will test their readiness.

“Its going to be a very good game. Bonita is well-coached with good individual play and has one of the top guards in the league, so it should be a good test for us. They play hard every possession; they ran a beautiful sideline break,” Coach Tolliver said. “Once you get to league play, everybody has to step their game up a notch.”

—Steven Felschundneff

steven@claremont-courier.com