After securing their CIF championship in the Southern Section Division 5, the Banning Broncos hit the road to meet up with the Wolfpack of Valley Village on March 3.
The gymnasium lacked the accoutrements that might be expected for a championship playoff game, but the contest went on as scheduled.
In the end the Broncos sent the Wolfpack home with a loss in the first-round playoff series for the State Championship.
The score was 58-42.
While the Wolfpack was smaller in stature, they made up for it with their skills and organized play.
Valley Torah had several set shooters that were effective.
Banning shut down their shooting game and forced the pass.
The first period had Banning leading with a score of 17-5.
The Wolfpack did not relent and brought their deficit to 8 points by the third quarter.
By the end of the third quarter, Valley Torah had 29 to Banning’s 37.
The game was physical.
AJ Anderson of Banning fell hard in the fourth quarter.
Amari Callender also took a tumble in the game.
The Broncos were able to fend off the Wolfpack with the buzzer sounding with a score of 58-42.
Bronco Keon Mitchell racked up 15 for the Broncos.
Samuel Scott lit up the boards with 12 points for Banning.
Richard Espinoza for Banning got seven points.
Lames Patterson and AJ Anderson both scored six each for the winning Broncos.
Banning’s Coach Cory Cornelius was concerned with the logistics for a CIF Champion.
“It’s very interesting that a CIF championship team has to go on the road in the first-round of the playoffs,” said Cornielius.
Cornelius was concerned that the players had to travel over hundreds of miles in a few days.
“We travelled more than an NBA team,” said Cornelius.
Regarding the game against Valley Torah Cornelius knew it was going to be a tough game.
“They came out ready to compete,” said Cornelius. “AJ was good on defense. He’s our energizer on the bench.”
“I feel like we came out a little slow,” said Bronco Lamese Patterson. “Being on the road after a championship was tough but we pulled it off.”
The Broncos then took on the Lions of East High, where they lost 69-59.
The Broncos had to travel over a hundred miles to compete in their second playoff game for the state championship.
The Lions of Eastside High were recently in Division 4.
They were brought down to Division 5 to compete with the Broncos.
The play level for each division seemed markedly different.
The Lions were adept to the fast break.
They could score a lot of transition points. This was evident from the start of the game.
“If we can contain their fast break, we have a good chance,” said Banning’s assistant coach Ed De la Cruz. “They run up and down the court in a fast tempo. We’ll have to force the turnovers.”
“This is going to be a dog fight,” said Banning’s head coach Cory Cornelius. “They are long and athletic.”
The Lions lived up to their accolades. The Lions scored four points in several seconds from the start.
A hard-fought struggle began for the Broncos.
By the end of the first quarter, the Lions dominated with a score of 20-11.
Eastside High applied a lot of pressure on Banning’s offense.
Banning made over 5 fouls by the end of the second quarter.
The Lion’s lead grew by the end of the second quarter.
It was now 34-25, in favor of the Lions.
In the heat of the battle Banning accrued 9 fouls by the end of the third quarter.
The score was 48-32 with the Lions leading.
Eastside ran fast and pressed hard.
They had players double and triple covering Banning players.
The Lion’s transition shots were lethal. They always had someone waiting at the other end of the court.
They would drive the ball hard downcourt and at the last second pass the ball to score.
The game was beyond intense.
Within the last three minutes of the game, the Broncos reduced the gap to three points. It was 59 to 56 in favor of Eastside High.
The Lions kicked it into fifth gear and went on to score ten more points while the Broncos mustered three more before the finale.
The Lions of Eastside High ended the quest of Banning’s trip to the State championship.
“The kids played hard and went out with a fight, said Cornelius. “There are differences. You are playing a D (division) 4 team against a D 5 team. “
The Broncos were not expected to excel as they did, let alone reach the CIF finals.
Banning showed they could go up against any opponent full tilt and win.
“The Bronco team should be extremely proud of their accomplishments,” said Cornielius. “They became CIF Champions Southern Section in Division 5. Our team has rebuilt the image of Banning. They are champions now, and they did it together. “