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Brawley boys defeat Calexico, 62-47

January 12, 2002|By TOM RONCO, Special to this newspaper

CALEXICO — Grabbing the early lead behind the play of their big man and then shifting to a smaller, quicker team to control the tempo, the Brawley Union High boys basketball team defeated the Calexico High Bulldogs 62-47 in the Imperial Valley League opener for both teams here Friday night.

Both teams battled literally to end in a physical contest.

"We never stopped playing and that's all you can ask of the kids," said Calexico coach Ernesto Valenzuela.

"I think that Calexico played well and it was obvious they had done some scouting because they knew what we ran," said Brawley assistant coach Rashan Overton.

It was the first game in two weeks for the Bulldogs, who shot poorly in the first quarter and Brawley's pressure defense forced early turnovers.

"I wouldn't say that we shot poorly but after two weeks we were a little rusty," said Calexico coach Ernesto Valenzuela. "We had some good looks at the basket early, but the shots didn't fall."

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Brawley's Lafayette Lofton scored six of the Wildcats' first eight points as Brawley took a 16-8 first-quarter lead.

"We beat ourselves. We had a lot of turnovers because we didn't control the ball and always seemed in a hurry." said Calexico senior center Adrian Maldonado. "I missed some shots early and they played good defense."

Maldonado hit a basket in the paint to bring the Bulldogs to within six points at 16-10. A Chris Johnson basket made it 18-12, but that was as close as the Bulldogs would get.

Following Johnson's basket, Brawley's Miguel Melendrez hit a free throw and Mark Rivera stole a Calexico pass and scored a lay-up to put the Wildcats up 23-12.

Lofton worked hard inside the paint, finally tipping in the ball to give Brawley its biggest first half lead at 30-16 with about two minutes remaining in the second quarter.

Maldonado then scored six points but the Bulldogs still trailed 34-22 at the half.

Maldonado opened the second half, blocking a Lofton shot, while at the other end of the court Lofton picked up his third foul.

His fourth foul came minutes later and he sat out almost five minutes of the third quarter.

Calexico failed to capitalize on Brawley's lack of height as the Wildcats extended their lead to 46-32 at the end of the third quarter.

"We could have been more patient with our shots, especially with Lofton out, but we didn't," said Valenzuela.

"What we do is run a little smaller team," said Overton of the already pretty short Wildcats.

"We put in a couple of smaller guys to get quickness and then of course we always play hard."

One of the "quick guys" was senior Jack Motter, who had several steals and, at 5'7", some critical rebounds for the Wildcats.

"I ended up in the middle a few times because of our offense and I just blocked a few people out and got the rebounds," said Motter.

Calexico's Alex Marin played aggressive defense and hit a couple of three-pointers in the second half.

"The pressure was always there, they were pressing the whole game," said Marin. "I had good looks, but the pressure and not playing wore me down."

Lofton returned one minute into the fourth quarter after a Martin trey and two free throws by Maldonado cut the Wildcat lead to 47-39, only to quickly pick up foul No. 5.

When Calexico's Abel Mares was fouled, he made the first of two free throws to get Calexico within ten at 50-40.

On the second attempt, Mares was called for a line violation nullifying the second free throw and then was hit with a technical foul.

Brawley's Rivera converted both technical foul shots and was instrumental helping hold the Wildcats together down the stretch.

"I had to step up because Lofton's our tallest guy and we try to go to him," said Rivera, a senior who lead all scorers with 20 points and had seven steals.

"When he's out they look to me so I look for better shots."

Carlos Corral, who had eight points and numerous steals and assists, also stepped up for the Wildcats. A guard, he's still the second tallest Wildcat and his steal and coast-to-coast lay-up late in the quarter probably sealed the Bulldogs' fate.

Making his IVL debut for the Wildcats was freshman center James Haley Jr., who had eight points and critical rebounds in Lofton's absence.

"He's young and coming along and he likes the gym and is not afraid to learn.," said Overton. "We've had other freshmen play varsity. It drains our lower level teams but we want to play the guys who will let us compete."

Also sealing the Bulldogs' fate was 8 for 16 free-throw shooting. The Wildcats were slightly better, hitting 19 of 31.

"We didn't shoot well from the line and Brawley is always going to shoot a lot of free-throws because they go to the basket," said Valenzuela.

The Wildcats (9-5 overall, 1-0 IVL) will play at Central at 7 p.m. Friday and Calexico (4-8, 0-1) will play at Southwest at 7 p.m. Friday.

Southwest 87, Central 70

In a foul-plagued game here Friday night, Southwest High came up winners 87-70 over visiting Central Union High in El Centro.

"I feel fortunate that we won," said Eagles coach Marty Zwart, "considering there were 54 fouls called in the game."

Southwest suited up just six players and one fouled out. The Eagles' remaining five players all played the last four minutes of the game with four fouls each. "We just basically passed the ball around," Zwart said.

Devon Hood led five Eagles in double figures, erupting for 27 points. He hit 13-of-14 free throws and also pulled down 10 rebounds. Jesse Hoyt drilled 17 points, Brian Martinez and Chris Lara both tallied 14 and Nate Smith added 12.

Vincent McSee led Central with 24.

Southwest (4-10 overall, 1-0 league) hosts Calexico High at 7 p.m. Friday. It's the Eagles' winter homecoming game. Central (0-16, 0-2) travels to Holtville High on Friday for a 7 p.m. contest.

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