Varsity boys’ basketball loses to Loyola

Varsity boys’ basketball lost to Loyola 62-63 during the first round of CIF Southern Section Boys’ Basketball playoffs Wednesday, Feb. 15 at home. Walnut ends its season with an overall record of 20-7, placing second in the Hacienda League.

Center senior Eric Song led the game with 18 points and eight rebounds, followed by power forward junior Agassi Goantara with 10 points and five rebounds. In addition, shooting guard senior Andrew Lee scored nine points and point guard senior Ryan Dai racked up eight points, 11 rebounds and three assists.

“We knew they were physically bigger than us and more athletic than us, so we really worked hard to practice on rebounding, technique and how to get the ball. We had to use our speed against them, since they weren’t as fast as us. My mentality was to remain on the rebound and always to play defense,” Dai said.

In a low offensive first quarter, point guard sophomore Eli Ramos scored a free throw to create a small lead and end the quarter 10-9. After shooting four three-pointers, Loyola regained a four-point lead during the second quarter. Power forward junior Dane Johannsen scored a three-pointer to decrease the gap to one point, but a personal foul allowed Loyola to gain two free throw points to make the score 25-28.

“There was a lot of pressure in playoffs. During the game we were trying to come back. We just tried our best and we played good defense. We started playing with good shooters [but] we had trouble [because their team was] pretty athletic,” Lee said. “I thought we had a pretty good chance, and we learned a lot from the experience.”

In the beginning of the third quarter, Walnut struggled to remain on the offensive. Turnovers and rebounds helped Loyola increase its lead to five points halfway through the quarter.  After four free throws from two fouls, Loyola raised its lead to nine points and finished the quarter 38-47.

“We did a good job with trying to block them, but they got some good shots. At the end of the quarter, we were down by nine, but if we kept defending just like we did since the start of the game, we actually could have won. We had some mental lapses, and that was a big cost to us during the game,” Goantara said.

In the last quarter, Song led the Mustangs with eight points to gain a three-point lead. However, the Cubs shot a last-ditch three-pointer to tie the game 61-61. Loyola’s point guard senior Eli Oti drove past Walnut’s defense during overtime with an assist that gave them a two-point lead by the 3:30 mark. Ramos drew a foul and scored one free throw out of two attempts from the line. The Mustangs were unable to secure a win and ended the game 62-63.

“We made them take tough shots [and] came back to prevent them from scoring,” Dai said. “Looking back, every year, we’re always the underdog. We’re always underestimated, but overall, it was a pretty good season. We didn’t reach some of our goals but our team worked really hard to put us in the best position to reach those goals. That’s all we ask for.”

By Amy Lo, Staff writer
Photo by Emily Ng