By SHEL SEGAL
COVINA – The Keppel boys basketball team held off a fourth quarter rally and defeated Covina 51-41 at Northview High School in a consolation game of the Sierra Vista Tournament.
Freshman Laird Anderson led the way for the Aztecs (3-1) with 16 points. He was helped out by senior Nicholas Fong, who scored 12, and Michael Granados, who pitched in 11 points.
Fong, who as an upperclassman is taking a leadership role with the team, said while the Aztecs got the win there is still much to learn and improve upon.
“I think we just have to have better composure right now,” he said. “We’re still a young team with a lot of freshmen and juniors and sophomores. I’m trying to teach them composure, how to play together and just work as a team to achieve that goal.”
He added, though, there were a lot of positive things to take away from the victory.
“Tonight, I felt we played a little better defense than we did (on Thursday night, a 52-39 loss to Monrovia,” Fong said. “We got more rebounds than we did yesterday and we just have to clean up all the little mistakes.”
Anderson said while he is one of the youngest players on the team, he is enjoying his first year at the varsity level.
“It’s a lot of fun,” he said. “It’s very different from travel ball. The pace, it’s a lot faster. And there’s bigger competition.”
He also said as Keppel was outscored 16-13 in the fourth quarter to give Covina (2-3) a look at the game, he is happy with the way the Aztecs kept their composure late in the game.
“We just needed to stay calm and knock down open shots mostly,” Anderson said. “We were playing good defense, getting rebounds and boxing out when we needed to.”
Keppel coach Hung Duong said the Aztecs made the Colts play Keppel’s game and not the other way around.
“We executed our pressure, our trap,” he said. “We wanted to come in and trap (Covina) a little bit. The kids did a real good job coming in by trapping and making them throw the ball away a little bit.”
He added while Covina was able to get a late look at the game, he knows that’s what happens often when coaching a young team like Keppel.
“For us, it’s going to be like that a little bit because of our inexperience,” Duong said. “We lack that composure right now where we’re not able to run the clock and execute a set. It’s a learning curve for us right now. It’s going to take a little bit of time and game to get that underneath our belt.”
Covina coach William Bissman said his team didn’t do its best from the floor, adding the scheduling this past week gave the Colts fits.
“We had a really bad shooting day,” he said. “We normally shoot a lot better than that. We had a tough game (on Thursday night) against Colony. It took a lot of energy out of us. And a 3:15 game right after school kind of drained us a little bit.”
He added it didn’t help playing such a strong Aztec squad.
“Keppel’s very tough,” Bissman said. They’re very aggressive. And (rebounding) is something we got to fix this season.
Keppel resumes tournament play today at 4:30 p.m. by taking on Northview at Covina High School.