Los Angeles Preps: J.P. Chakbazof



LA VERNE -- The tight-knit community had to pick a side Tuesday night.

Whom to cheer for? The No. 4-seeded Damien Spartans? The No. 5-seeded Bonita Bearcats? And, perhaps most important, what to wear? Both schools use green as a primary color.

La Verne residents couldn't dodge this one. Damien's campus sits on the corner of Damien Avenue and -- you guessed it -- Bonita Avenue. Turn right on Bonita and take it for a mile until you hit D Street. Make a left and, poof, you've made the quick jump, er, trip from one campus to the other.

Calling this a battle for city bragging rights wouldn't do it justice.

When the dust settled, Sierra League champion Damien (26-3) emerged victorious, 52-44, and advanced to next week's CIF Southern Section Division 3A semifinals. With Hacienda League champion Bonita (26-4) eliminated, the small town of 30,000 figures to follow the Spartans wherever they go next.

"It's a really respectful rivalry," Damien coach Matt Dunn said. "I know we have the utmost respect for them and as a community, it's a lot of fun. We both play with the kids that come to our schools and I think that's what makes it special. This year we both happened to be very good."

On this night, Damien was just a tad bit better.

Bonita had the game's two leading scorers -- Jordan Butler had 15 and James Northup had 11 -- but Dunn had balance with seven of his players scoring at least six points. Clayton White and Gian Demano led the Spartans with nine each, J.P. Chakbazof and J.J. Pavia scored eight apiece.

Dunn's biggest player, though, left his mark late. Damien led by two with less than a minute to go when leading scorer Chris Reyes tipped in a miss. Half of the crowd went wild. You could finally distinguish who was rooting for the home team and who wasn't.

"That tip-in was big," Reyes said. "We needed to get a score right there."

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LA South and Inland Empire: Damien 59, Ayala 55 (OT)

January, 21, 2011
1/21/11
10:58
PM PT
CHINO HILLS -- With his offensive game lagging, Chris Reyes let his ears take over Friday night. He didn't stray from his plan, didn't try to force the issue.

He just listened.

Damien basketball coach Matt Dunn had more than a few words for his star forward, who responded with more than a few points. Reyes scored 18 of his game-high 22 points in the second half, guiding Damien to a 59-55 overtime victory over Ayala. He added 15 rebounds and seven blocks for the Sierra League-leading Spartans (18-1, 4-0).

"He did what he's capable of," Dunn said. "He's a great player. ... We challenged him a little bit."

Ayala (12-7, 2-2) provided obstacles of its own, taking a two-point lead on a clutch jumper from Mathew Ponce with 25 seconds left in regulation. Reyes grabbed an offensive rebound on the other end and tied it with a short hook shot. He had seven points in the four-minute overtime period.

"Guys just got me the ball," said Reyes, one of the state's top-rated forwards.

Reyes grew up with many of Ayala's players -- something Dunn believed affected him in the early going.

"Sometimes when you play against your friends, it's really hard," Dunn added. "I thought that was a big part of the first half. He didn't get his motor going."

It was a tightly contested battle throughout. Damien appeared flustered by Ayala’s suffocating 1-3-1 zone, but the Bulldogs had troubles of their own. Gian Demano carried the Spartans in the beginning, scoring eight of his team's first 10 points. The senior guard finished with 13, earning high praise from Dunn for his demeanor late in the game.

Reyes' dirty work inside, combined with Kevin Mansour's three-pointer and J.P. Chakbazof's two free throws sealed the deal. Ayala has a tough turnaround -- the Bulldogs face Diamond Ranch in the California Elite Showcase at the University of La Verne on Saturday.

Andrew Ortiz did what he could to keep Ayala in it, scoring a team-high 19 points. Josh Ramirez netted eight of the Bulldogs' first 13 points, but with Reyes playing shutdown defense, he wasn't heard from again until overtime.

"I was going strong," Reyes said. "Coach told me to move around. He was getting mad at me."

Good thing for Damien -- Reyes listened.

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