By Jeremy McDonald
GERVAIS, Ore.– Its been a tough season for the boys of Gervais thus far considering they had high hopes to build off of last year’s success and trying to get over the hump and get a fifth-spot in the PacWest Conference-league playoffs this season.
They still have a chance with a few games left in their season and they had a giant flash to see what they’re able to do if they can play clean basketball and sustain it against Jefferson.
Now the Lions, who entering the game needing one more win to match last season’s nine-win total and sat 8-8 entering Saturday’s game, started the game with a 15-10 lead and the Cougars without Cody Braun on the court, who missed the game because of a car accident he was in and Gervais had numerous opportunities to tie if not go-ahead of Jefferson by creating turnovers.
But instead, the Cougs couldn’t land that decisive shot and eventually the young shooters of Leon Romo Jr and Daniel Aguilar found their rhythm as the Lions entered halftime up 33-18.
Part of the struggle for Gervais too was in their trend setters from the perimeter in Pedro Villegas and Elvis Vallejo, Gervais’ two big time guards, were out due to fouls with three each and put pressure on post-Alex Kalguin and company to hold down the fort the best they can.
As they came out of the locker room, with Gervais at full strength with Vallejo, Villegas, Kalguin, Nicola Zarhkoff and company on the court, the shots began to fall. Again and Again. The defense was there making plays.
Next thing you knew that 33-18, 15 point lead, was nothing more than just three-points at 37-34. A 16-4 run as the Lions called timeout and Villegas was heard cheering after them scoring their 16th point in a matter of minutes.
“(Head Coach Ben Schultz) just told us to relax and move the ball around and score and give it our all, give all we got,” said Vallejo, who’s Cougars team saw Villegas (six points) and Nicola Zarhkoff (five points) combined for 11 of Gervais’ 19 third-quarter points. Vallejo scored three himself in that frame as well.
Coming out of the timeout however, as Vallejo and Villegas went out with their fourth fouls each around that timeout, a Diego Rodriguez shot and a Cesar Sepulveda put-back off Rodriguez’ ‘And-1’ opportunity turned momentum in favor the Lions for good for the reminder of the game.
As mentioned with the fouls, the Cougars found themselves in foul trouble again in the second half that slowed their production down in the game along with turnovers that allowed Jefferson to turn the three point lead into a 37-13 advantage entering the final buzzer for the 74-47 victory on the road Saturday.
“It was good just for us to re-group and coach just to get us set because the first half we were good for us, our energy was good everything,” said the freshman Aguilar. “We came out in the second half, they caught us off guard with some high intensity and coach got us back looked in and we extended the lead back again.”
Aguilar and his fellow freshman in Romo combined for 32 points, 22 coming from Romo as the Lions improve to 3-2 in league and 9-8 overall, matching their win total from last season and the Lions are entering their game versus Salem Academy on a three-game winning streak.
“It’s good for us because we started off a little rough and now we’re rocking and rolling on a three-game winning streak and we’re going to keep it going. We all just got to stay locked in,” said Aguilar.
Jayden Eriksen also added 12 points in the win for Jefferson.
For Gervais, who’ve seen games like this before in which they were in it until a speed bump happens that derails everything
“I think we just have to work harder in practice,” said Vallejo who finished with seven points in the loss. “Just work hard in practice and have a chip on our shoulders.”
Vallejo finished with 14 points and Zarhkoff had seven in the game as well as Gervais travels to Colton Tuesday before closing out the first half of league versus Blanchet Catholic.
Photos By Jeremy McDonald