By: Anthony Lopez, The Plaid Sports Editor
Photography provided by: Benny Rodriguez, Yearbook Photographer
The 2017 Varsity Basketball regular season has officially begun, as it got started off with a controversial game between the Rancho Cucamonga Cougars and the Upland Highlanders. After a dismal second half of play, along with questionable calls and no-calls from the referees, the Cougars dismantled Upland in a 78 to 59 victory on Tuesday night. The loss also ends a ten-game win streak that started in early December for the Highlanders.
The game started off with an extremely fast tempo that is not always seen in basketball games. The first quarter zoomed by with very little interruptions. Both teams played good offense in the opening quarter. Oz Stokes and Bryce Parker were Upland’s scoring leaders during the opening portion of the match. At the end of the first quarter, the Highlanders held the lead by one point, as the score was 19 to 18. The longtime rivalry between Upland and Rancho was alive once more, and the action was just starting.
Rancho Cucamonga began to show more strengths than weaknesses, in the second quarter, as the Cougars’ defense played aggressively and forced Upland into some tough situations. Noticeable throughout the entire game, the Cougars were playing man on man ball and were strictly sticking to that plan. The Highlanders offense scored only 13 points in the second quarter, while the Cougars put up 23 points on offense. It seemed the Cougars were double teaming Highlander players as often as possible and forcing them into dicey offensive situations. It made for a tough-going on offense, for Upland. After a very defensive quarter, the score going into halftime was 41 to 32, with Rancho Cucamonga in the lead.
The third quarter kickstarted the controversial part of this game. The quarter was plagued with lots of fouls and other calls made by the referees; almost all of them were on Upland. However, from the stands, many fans didn’t see as many fouls that were called and the Upland sideline was teeming with anger. Adding salt to the wound, the Highlander team had a nightmarish third quarter. The offense couldn’t get much going, as they were plagued with turnover after turnover. Upland was able to stay in the game though, as the score ending the third was 60 to 49 with the Cougars maintaining their lead. It was hard to tell whether it was the referee’s calls that killed Upland this quarter, or if it was the amount of turnovers that landed major blows. Most likely, it was a combination of both.
With the game separated by 11 points, it was still anybody’s game to win, heading into the fourth quarter. As the action quickly picked up again, resuming its incredible fast pace, the Cougars began to run away with the score as the quarter dragged on. As if the third quarter wasn’t enough, there were still some questionable calls and untimely turnovers, proving costly to the Highlanders. There wasn’t much Upland could do late in the game to make a comeback, as the Cougars lead extended at one point, to 20 points, with a few minutes left. After a wild night, and one the Highlanders would like to forget, the final score from Upland High was 78 to 59. The loss ended the awesome 10 game win streak the Highlanders had put together during the preseason.
Oz Stokes led the way offensively for the Highlanders, as he scored 21 points throughout the game. Bryce Parker and Michael Flynn also turned in recognizable stats, as Parker scored 15 points and Flynn scored nine points, along with multiple rebounds. Rancho Cucamonga’s Kahlil McGuire was the game’s overall scoring leader, as the senior earned 24 points. All together, the Highlanders averaged 14.75 points per quarter, while the Cougars averaged 19.5 points per quarter. When asked of his thoughts on the game, Highlanders' coach, Anthony Mason, said, “Apparently, I have a misunderstanding of what the rules are because the rules they (the referees) explained to me was that you can’t ride one man all the way up the floor. That pretty much put a saddle on us tonight.”
The Highlanders next game is Friday night, as they take on the Damien Spartans at Damien High School.