By Brandon HENSLEY
The Rosemont Middle School boys’ basketball team hit a rough patch last week, losing its first game in four years under head coach Brent Ballard.
No one watching could say they weren’t entertained, though.
After a sluggish start against the Wilson Wildcats, the Spartans were to regroup and force overtime, where they eventually fell 36-34. In front of a packed Rosemont gymnasium that included teachers, parents, a drum line and screaming students, the Spartans were given all they could handle and more, a first for the program so used to dominating the Glendale Unified School District league that also includes Toll and Roosevelt Middle School.
“We didn’t play well enough to win,” Ballard said. “You can’t say they didn’t deserve it, so hats off to Wilson. I thought we didn’t shoot well in the first half. We put ourselves in a hole but I was proud of how we battled back. We did not execute down the stretch because we’ve never had to.”
The loss dropped Rosemont to 2-1 in the six-game season. Wilson improved to 3-0. Both teams play on the last day of the season on Oct. 30 at Wilson Middle School. If both tie for first place, they will each share the league title, something Rosemont is not accustomed to doing. Rosemont plays today, Thursday, at Toll Middle School at 3:30 p.m.
Ballard knew Wilson was a good team heading into this season. He said the Wildcats did a good job penetrating Rosemont’s man-to-man defense.
“That’s what we pride ourselves on, not letting guys get to the basket, and they did. They found a chink in our armor and took advantage,” Ballard said.
Wilson led 16-9 at halftime and 24-16 with 11 minutes left in the second half. Ballard wouldn’t discount the thought that maybe his team was shooting – and missing – too many 3-pointers, but with six minutes to go, Steven Hodges connected from long range to make it 26-23. Alex Zohouralenn tied the game a minute later on a short jumper and Wilson kept missing free throws down the stretch. With 1:17 on the clock, Henry Alvarez was fouled while shooting a 3-pointer. He made the shot and the free throw, and the Spartans led 30-28.
The game went into a two-minute overtime. In that period, Wilson frequently went to the free-throw line, and though the Wildcats didn’t make a lot of their attempts, they were able to get the rebounds and run more time off the clock to secure the victory.
Regardless of the outcome, junior high basketball games have become something to see. High school coaches will attend to size up future talent, and on the peripheral there are PA announcers, cheerleaders and stands packed with students and parents rooting on the teams.
Rosemont’s team has always been the class of the league. Last year they won the championship with strong play from eighth graders Grady Schilling and Will Smiley. This year, Ballard said he’s counting on Alvarez, Zohouralen, Max Blessinger, Jonathan Lee and seventh grade starter Tyler Carlson.
“First time ever, in my four years,” Ballard said of breaking his normal policy of only starting eighth graders. “We’ve tried to stay with that but Tyler’s just so good we felt like we had to get him in the starting lineup.”
Now the Spartans have to move on as a team that has actually lost a game. To his credit, Ballard wasn’t too dejected.
“We’re fine. I told the boys I’m more excited than ever,” he said. “We have a challenge, where before we’ve always been the team to beat. It’s kind of fun to come in at a different angle and see if we can rally.”
Rosemont Girls Keep Dominating
While the boys took a hard-fought loss, the Spartans girls’ team kept rolling against Wilson. Talented Wildcats players Georgina Kregarian and Tatiana Kazangina did their best to make it interesting against Rosemont’s second and third-strings, but the Spartans controlled the game from the outset, racing out to an 8-1 lead and never looking back as they remained undefeated with a 31-23 win.
Girls’ coach Chris Bouchard has a very talented daughter, eighth grader Caitlyn, but he also has a lot on his plate when it comes to giving girls playing time. He said several were sick for the Wilson game, but usually he has 24 girls suit up each week. Yes, 24 players are on the team.
“It’s extremely challenging,” he said. Bouchard has four different strings he puts out during the games, which are two halves consisting of 40 minutes running time, except for close games under two minutes.
“Each girl gets at least four minutes of playing time,” he said.
The Rosemont girls haven’t had too much competition in recent years, so Bouchard can manage playing time a little easier (last year he had around 15 players on the roster). Wilson is probably the Spartans’ toughest competition, and when the Wildcats make a run, it forces Bouchard to put back in his starters, which include Caitlyn, Mari Lee and Denise Dayag, whose sister Rachel was an eighth grader on the team last year.
Bouchard has to remind them that playing time isn’t something that is guaranteed every game. Still, when he told the girls that in tryouts this year no one left, and Bouchard was impressed.
“It’s still fun. All the girls like to compete,” he said. “Even though there are 24 on the team they know when they’re going to get in and know their place on the team.”
Rosemont Boys and Girls’ Remaining Schedule.
First games start at 3:30 p.m.
Today, Thursday, Oct. 16 @ Toll. Girls play first.
Oct. 23: Home vs. Roosevelt. Girls play first.
Oct. 30: @ Wilson. Girls play first.