EL CENTRO – Brawley, Calipatria, Central, Imperial, and Southwest Varsity boys’ high school basketball programs are midway through a five week, 10 game summer league hosted by the Eagles, where players and coaches have the opportunity to measure their ability and see what wrinkles need to be ironed out before the beginning of preseason in November.
Calipatria squared up with Southwest in the first game of the third session June 28, in a rare, off-season slugfest between a seasoned Eagles unit that made a deep run into CIF last season and an ornery swarm of Hornets looking to make their presence felt after taking second place in the Desert League in 2016.
The teams played two 20 minute collegiate-style halves with an accelerated clock. For purposes of speeding up the games, each free throw attempt counted as two points.
“What we look for right here in these summer leagues is basically player development,” said Robert Romero, the Hornets boys’ Varsity basketball head coach.
In a high scoring stale-mate, the game was tied at 28 with three minutes remaining in the first half when the Eagles tightened up their defense and Eric Pompa cooked up back-to-back three-pointers to give Southwest a 36-33 lead at halftime.
Calipatria came out of the intermission and asserted a perimeter threat with a mid-range bank shot.
The Eagles gave up four straight buckets to open the second half before drilling a pull-up from the free throw line making it 40-38, Hornets.
Solid ball handling and passes allowed Calipat to stretch the lead to 52-44 with roughly eight minutes left to play.
The Eagles pieced together stops with offensive execution to chip away at the lead and make it a one score contest at 52-50 with six minutes remaining in the game.
A barrage of dribble penetration and crafty finishes at the cup in the final minutes by the Hornets’ Julian Medina in the final minutes was enough to upset the host team with the final score of 63-55.
“I was told by an ex-coach in Brawley, Coach Grant, ‘Nobody is going to win a league or title here – it’s about working to see how one will progress as a player down the line,’” stressed Romero. “This (summer league) gives us a preview of all the teams. It’s always important for the community to know that even if they don’t have kids involved during the regular season, it’s still always a good idea to come out and support your local schools and community members during the summer.”