Los Angeles Preps: Kyle Benton

Etiwanda grinds out win over Gahr

February, 21, 2012
2/21/12
10:55
PM PT


CERRITOS -- A 15-point halftime lead had been whittled to single digits early in the third quarter Tuesday night, and Etiwanda boys’ basketball coach Dave Kleckner didn’t waste any time yanking two starters from the game and giving both a sideline scolding for unacceptable play.

Kleckner then called timeout, brought his team into a tight huddle and shared his message with the rest of the Eagles. Either play his way or don’t play at all. They responded by holding off Gahr, 60-52, in the second round of the Division 1AA playoffs.

Despite the victory, Kleckner was still clinching his teeth several minutes after the game.

“That was kind of frustrating, to tell you the truth,” he said. “It all started unraveling in the second half there.”

Since Kleckner took over at Etiwanda in 1996-97, the Eagles have never been eliminated in the second round or earlier. Gahr, the defending Division 2A champion, was playing in a tougher division this season, but also featured a starting front line of 6-foot-7 senior forward John Benson, 6-6 junior forward Kyle Benton and 6-6 senior center Davion Thomas, as well as 6-4 shooting guard Brian Nebo.

Etiwanda doesn’t have a player in its rotation taller than 6-4.

Kleckner wanted his post defenders to front Gahr’s big men and provide help on the backside. That’s not what he saw to start the second half.

“First possession, they pound it right into the post and we’re sitting behind the guy,” Kleckner said.

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