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Boys basketball has uphill battle to make CIF playoffs

The up and down season for Claremont High School boys basketball turned down again Tuesday with a disappointing loss to Bonita at home.

The entire game can be summed up in just two words: missed opportunities. Such as three consecutive chances, on Bearcat turnovers, the boys had in the fourth quarter to close a six-point gap. Or the three missed free throws at the end of the third quarter. It was just that kind of night.

Claremont was competitive for the first, third and fourth quarters, but they never recovered from a devastatingly bad second quarter. Down 33-21 at halftime, Claremont needed a breakout performance in the second half, but instead delivered merely a good one that fell short.

“We dug a hole,” Coach Stan Tolliver said. “We were down 12 at the half and had to fight back, which I though the guys did a good job of. Wwe just couldn’t get over the hump.”

Seniors Matthew Dirckx, with 17 points, and Zak Lounis, with 16, were the top scorers for Claremont and also the top rebounders with 10 for Dirckx and 8 for Lounis.

To be fair, Bonita was on its game. They had a rock-solid zone defense that Claremont struggled to penetrate, and junior Jordan Lopez was red hot dropping three pointers, which he seemed to hit each time the Bearcats needed a boost.

“We have been playing better and we have been in every game. It’s just at crucial times you have to take care of the ball and you must have great shot selection,” Coach Tolliver said.

The loss was particularly hard because Claremont needed a win to guarantee a trip to the CIF tournament, which starts next week. Before Tuesday, there was a three-way tie for second place in the Palomares League between the Pack, the Bearcats and Glendora. Bonita now has a lock on second. However, the Tartans also lost on Tuesday so Claremont and Glendora are now tied for third with 5-4 records. The problem, as Coach Tolliver pointed out after the game, that it’s unknown how the league will handle a tie when it comes to seeding the tournament.

The silver lining for Claremont will be the matchups for the final league games, all played on Thursday after the COURIER’s press time.

The Wolfpack looks to have the easier schedule as they hosted fifth place Ayala, 1-8, whereas the Tartans traveled to La Verne to meet the Bearcats. So stay tuned, postseason may well be in Claremont’s future, either by claiming third place outright or through an at large berth.

Up until Tuesday Claremont has been playing well, with a four-game winning streak including a 50-36 victory over Bonita on January 11. Last Friday Claremont lost to first place Colony, 71-63, but it was fairly close game considering that the Titans are undefeated.

Coach Tolliver said in Claremont’s division there are 59 teams and only 32 make the playoffs, so there will be at large teams with great records disappointed to find out they’re out of CIF play.

“It’s going to come down to Thursday night for us,” he said.

 

Girls water polo

Claremont is cruising to an undefeated league record, and a first place pennant, with yet another lopsided win this time over Ayala, 15-5, on Wednesday in Chino Hills. The girls had their last league game at Alta Loma on Thursday after the COURIER’s press time.

Similar to the girls soccer team, it is likely that water polo will host the first round of the CIF tournament when the bracket is released.

 

Girls soccer

The Wolfpack cemented its first place finish, and with it a Palomares League title, defeating Ayala, 4-0, on Wednesday at CHS. Four girls, junior Avery Gonzalez, senior Janelle Gutierrez, senior Tyler Higuera and senior Natalie Love, each scored one goal. Assists came from Gutierrez, Higuera, senior Lauren Arft and freshman Sarah Mahfoud.

The girls set the stage for their undefeated league record on Monday, beating Bonita, 2-1, also at home. The Bearcats were actually ahead at halftime but a pair of goals from Gutierrez, with assists from sophomores Emily Maass and Brianna Herrera, gave CHS the win.

Claremont ends regular season with a 10-0 Palomares League record, 19-1-3 overall, and will likely host the first round of the CIF tournament when the bracket is announced.

 

Girls basketball

Claremont lost a crucial league game to Bonita, 37-24, on Tuesday at home. The girls played one last Palomares League game, a home match with Ayala on Thursday after the COURIER’S press time.

With a 3-6 league record, a win against Ayala will still not be enough to lift the Pack to third place and an automatic berth to the CIF tournament.

Claremont could get an at large spot on the bracket because they have an overall winning record, 15-10, and are ranked 16th in their division.

—Steven Felschundneff

steven@claremont-courier.com