CHS boys share league title, but lose in CIF play
Call it an air of inevitability, or maybe just pure inertia, but Claremont High School boys basketball was not going to be denied a victory last Thursday when they hosted first-place Diamond Bar for the final game of the regular season.
Claremont never trailed on their way to a lopsided 78-60 victory in front of a jubilant hometown crowd. However, there was more at stake than just going out on high note, the victory also gave the Pack a share in the Palomares League title.
Bonita also prevailed on Thursday, so three teams—the Pack, the Brahmas and the Bearcats—all have identical, 7-3, league records and a piece of the league pennant. Even though they share the three-way tie, the teams are in different divisions, so all come out ranked first.
“The guys were focused. They really wanted it,” Coach Stan Tolliver said. “They are really capable. They work great together and we have played well at home all season. I thought all of those components really led to the win.”
Freshman Isaiah Love led the team in scoring with 16 points, followed by senior Christian Jordan with 13 and senior Jacob Henry with 12. Jordan also had a game high eight rebounds. Sophomore Joshua Chen had 10 points and eight assists.
After the game Coach Tolliver could not recall the last time Claremont earned a league title. “I can’t remember,” he said. “Not in my tenure and I have been here 10 years.”
As it turns out it has been 18 years since Claremont last won league.
Assistant Superintendant for Student Services Mike Bateman was the boys basketball coach at CHS between 1996 and 2004, during which time the team won a Baseline League title during the 1999-2000 season. The Pack went to the quarterfinals of CIF that year and went to the semifinal match the next season, which earned Coach Bateman a North All-Star Coach of the Year award.
On Wednesday Claremont hosted Los Osos in the first round of the CIF Southern Section Championships. The Grizzlies got on the board first and never looked back on their way to a 72-63 victory.
In the first half it appeared that Los Osos was really going to steamroll Claremont, with a 16-point lead at the break. But, true to their performance all season, the Pack rallied in the second half, yet was unable to close the gap. Claremont was also hampered by turnovers, many of which were broken up passes.
“We did push and tried to do some things in the second half, but we were our own worst enemy, we had too many turnovers,” Coach Tolliver said. “They are a really good basketball team that shoots the ball very well and that was a challenge for us. We weren’t able to get out on shooters the way we had game planned for.”
This year was still one of the best seasons for Claremont basketball and perhaps a sign of great things to come.
“It was a solid season, with a very solid group of players. Those guys gave their all every game and that’s all you can ask for,” he said.
“We’ve got a lion’s share of those guys returning; that is the beautiful thing. We lose some very valuable seniors who contributed a lot. We’ve got enough contributing pieces coming back to be able to build on, as well as some guys in the lower levels, which will continue at this level if not increase it.”
Claremont High School winter sports are entering the playoffs with first round games this week. The undefeated girls water polo team hosted a first round match against Dana Hills on Thursday after press time.
Girls soccer, 6-3-1, had an away game at Yucaipa, 10-1-3, on Thursday after press time. The Thunderbirds will be a formidable opponent, coming off a four-game winning streak and a Citrus Belt League title.
Boys soccer, 6-3-1, hosts Whittier’s California High School, 6-4, on Friday. The Condors, who placed third in the Del Rio League, are on a four-game winning streak.
Following a disappointing, 33-32, loss to Diamond Bar in their final league game, girls basketball traveled to Inglewood for the first round of the CIF tournament, taking on St. Mary’s High School after press time.
Claremont co-ed wrestling is having one of the best years of competition in quite some time.
On the girls side, Claremont sophomore Citlamina Mejia is headed to the California State Meet, a first in program history, according to Coach Gerald Escalante. He started the girls team eight years ago with just one wrestler and has grown the team to seven members in recent years.
Mejia broke her ankle last season, but after a year of recovery she returned in fine form, placing first at the girls CIF qualifier on February 3 in Upland. She then placed in the top eight at the girls CIF Masters Championships held last weekend, which was good enough to gain a berth at the state meet February 23 and 24 in Visalia.
Boys varsity ended its years long drought in league meets by defeating Diamond Bar, 47-30, last month. They also came close to winning two more league meets, losing to Glendora by one match, three points, and to Bonita by one pin, six points.
The Pack brought home many individual medals in both the JV and varsity tournaments, including two third place varsity team awards from Gabrielino and La Puente tournaments.
Claremont will be sending a record nine athletes to the CIF tournament this weekend after a dominating performance at the Palomares League finals last week.
A standout all year, Victor Mora placed first at 180, Claremont’s only top finish in the boys meet. The Pack earned two second-place medals from Eric Tran and Nick Alegria; four third-place finishes from Jonathan Raviv, Xiucoatl Mejia, Tyler Sanchez and Eddie Flores; and two fourth-place finishes from Nicolas Parga and Brandon Fairman.
The CIF meet will take place Friday and Saturday at Beaumont High School.