By: Anthony Lopez, The Plaid Sports Editor
Photography By: Morgan Price, The Plaid Sports Photographer
It was yet another disappointing night for the Upland Highlanders boys varsity basketball team last Friday night, as they lost to the Etiwanda Eagles, 74 to 47. The loss moved the Highlanders to a league record of 0-4, while the Eagles now have a 2-2 regular season record.
Right from the get go, the Eagles played well on defense. Etiwanda’s basketball team has long been known for its defense and it proved to be the Highlanders Achilles heel on Friday night. The first quarter was full of defensive action from both teams, as a matter of fact, as the score ending the opening quarter was only nine to six, with Etiwanda in front. Oz Stokes, Bryce Parker, and Michael Flynn led the way for Upland in the opening quarter with the three players each making a basket.
Etiwanda was shot out of a cannon in the second quarter, as they quickly began to make baskets and pull away with the lead. The Eagles offense was rolling the entire quarter, while the Highlanders defense began to struggle. Too many players were left open around the court, which ended up hurting the Highlanders all night long. While the Eagles offense was powering its way past Upland, Etiwanda’s defense was also coming up big, during the second quarter. The defensive front held the Highlanders to only 13 points in the second quarter, while the Eagles were able to score 26 points. It seemed the Highlanders were just struggling on both sides of the ball in the opening half. Heading into the locker room at halftime, the score was 35 to 19, and Etiwanda was quickly pulling away.
The long night for the Highlanders continued in the second half. The third quarter included many turnovers, fouls, and struggling defense for the home team. This led to another big offensive run from the Eagles. There was just something about the entire game that made it seem no matter what the Highlanders did, the Eagles were always ten steps ahead. Offense, defense, and anything in between, the Eagles were simply outplaying the Highlanders. And to make matters worse for Upland, Etiwanda’s defense really got strong during the third quarter. Heading into the final quarter, Etiwanda had a 19 point lead, as the score was 53 to 34. Kessler Edwards, one of the Eagle’s best players, had 25 points, nearly 50% of his teams total score. Oz Stokes was leading the way offensively for the Highlanders at this point, as he had 15 total points.
There was one point in the fourth quarter where it seemed like the Highlanders would have a chance, as they got within 12 points of catching back up to the Eagles. However, the glimmer of hope was short lived. Etiwanda had a late, explosive offensive run in the quarter to finish it off. Multiple fans in the stands were calling on Upland for its lack of passing the ball on offense, and its defense that repeatedly struggled time and time again throughout the entire game. After a very disappointing game, and certainly one that the Highlanders did not need, the final score from the Highlanders old gym was 74 to 47. Etiwanda won by nearly 30 points.
Kessler Edwards scored 30 total points for the Eagles, while his teammate Miles Oliver scored 18 points. The two combined had a total of 48 points, more than 60% of the total 74 points the team scored. Oz Stokes was Upland’s highest scorer of the night with 20 points. Michael Flynn also turned in 8 points with a few rebounds. When asked of his thoughts on the game, Highlander’s head coach, Anthony Mason, said, “Etiwanda is a good team. I think we came out a little sluggish and then we found our stride a little bit later. I was happy with the way my guys competed in the second half though, but, Etiwanda is a good team and they ran their stuff tonight.”
The Highlanders next game is tonight, Tuesday, January 24, at 6:30pm. It is another home game for the team. Their opponent is the Los Osos Grizzlies, who have one win in this regular season. The game is almost a must-win situation for Upland, as the team is desperately looking for momentum as they sit dead last in the Baseline league standings with only a handful of games left.