By GERARDO RECINOS
Alhambra’s boys basketball scratched off the first tally mark in the win column on Saturday morning to avoid coming in last place in their tournament in Vacaville.
A nail-biter 61-58 win over Armijo-Fairfield on Dec. 10 allowed the Bulldogs to breathe a sigh of relief for a few reasons. They got off the block with their first win, they avoided coming in eighth place out of eight teams, and they got their first-year coach his first competitive win.
“We’ve had a tough go in the first six games, we’ve played some tough teams and some good competition,” said coach Chris Petiti. “I told them(the team) if you continue to do the things we can do you’ll see it pay off later down the road.”
A 22-point outing from senior Thomas McDonald spurred the Bulldogs in a fast-paced game. McDonald was the only Bulldog named to the All-Tournament team. While Petiti would rather see them team play more composed and patient basketball, he felt Armijo’s speed dictated the pace of the game. But he felt satisfied with how his players reacted to it.
While fast-break points were plentiful, the Bulldogs first half lead came largely in part to he Bulldogs working the ball down low to senior Jordan Eglite. The 6-foot-4 Elite scored 14 of his total 17 points in the first half.
“I would like us to be a little bit more patient. I think we took some shots earlier in the shot clock that i would like us to take later,” Petiti said. “We spaced the floor well and found the gaps in attack, and they did a good job getting to the basket.
“He [Eglite] is such a team player, he’ll take the opportunity to score when it’s there, and when he draws other defenders and kicks it out to his teammates,” he said.
Any time Armijo made a run, Alhambra could count on Eglite to bail them out. His eight points late in the second half contributed to an 11-1 Alhambra run. Eglite was the benefactor of some slicing passes by senior Luke Brown.
Perhaps fortunately for Alhambra, Armijo went without one of their best players for the whole first half. Elijah Johnson’s presence in the second half of play was clearly felt by all. With him in the game Armijo was able to win the second half by four points. Johnson had 11 points in only a half of play.
Or much of the third quarter the two teams scored their points from the free throw line, but the fourth quarter was a wild scoring fest that Alhambra was lucky to survive.
Sophomore Wyatt Hammer stepped up and hit two three-pointers to answer a pair by Armijo wit only 34 seconds left of the clock. But his biggest play of the night was grabbing an offensive rebound with 3.6 seconds on the clock after McDonald missed the second of his free throws, and proceeded to make his own to ice the game.
Hammer had 12 points on the night most of which were heavily contested, but the biggest came to put the game away all alone on the line.
The win puts the Bulldogs at 1-5 with the Arroyo Tournament and Atascadero tournaments looming in the last two weeks of the year.