It comes as no surprise that you’ll find Bulldogs at the top of the Eastern League boys’ basketball standings.
What is surprising, however, is that it’s not the Jordan Bulldogs. It’s the Garfield High School Bulldogs.
Garfield is 8-0 in league and has won 11 straight games. The Bulldogs raised their overall record to 15-5 Monday with a 64-40 victory against South East.
Garfield’s run to the top has put Jordan’s streak of six consecutive league titles in jeopardy. Jordan and the rest of the league have less than two weeks to catch up and Garfield needs only to win two of its last four games to take the title.
South East (6-14, 1-8) was no match for Garfield Monday, as the Bulldogs started a rugged stretch in which they will play three games in five days, including games with Bell (9-9, 5-3) and Jordan (5-8, 4-3), their two closest pursuers in the standings.
The Bulldogs have taken the Eastern League by surprise to become one of the teams to watch in the City Section. As Coach Ricardo Rivas notes, Garfield had to replace the top eight players from last season’s 15-6 (7-4 in league) squad.
“We didn’t have very many returning players,” Rivas said. “It’s like a whole new team. But I knew we would compete, and these guys have really put in the work to become successful. They have really come through.”
The team’s biggest win, arguably, came Jan. 19 at Jordan, 77-69. It ended Jordan’s streak of 31 consecutive Eastern League victories and was Garfield’s first win against Jordan since 2003.
The victory came during a demanding stretch of three games in four days that started with a tiring 66-61 overtime victory at Bell and ended with a 57-38 defeat of Huntington Park.
“Bell was favored to win the league this year and to beat them in overtime at their place, and then win at Jordan the next day, really gave us a lot of confidence,” Rivas said.
Garfield is led by center Joe Joaquin, forward Julian Sandoval and guard David Laroue. Joaquin scored 22 points in Monday’s game against South East. Laroue had 12.
The Bulldogs defeated Eastside rival Roosevelt, 69-52, last Friday in a hot, steamy and packed gym at Roosevelt.
As expected the game was tightly contested, but Garfield began to pull away in the second quarter and broke the game open in the third. The Bulldogs led 27-18 at halftime and took a 19-point lead into the fourth quarter. They led by as many as 24 in the final period and won it going away.
Joaquin scored 17 points to lead the way and Garfield also got 10 points from Frankie Aguilar and nine points from Nato Munoz. Laroue finished with eight points.
Guard Angel Garcia came off the bench to contribute 11 points and some aggressive defense that helped jump start the Bulldogs in the second quarter.
“We got a run started by the second unit,” Rivas noted. “They really did a good job while playing in a hostile environment. It was really nice to get out of there with a win.”
Alan Ramirez scored a game-high 20 points before fouling out to lead Roosevelt (11-11, 2-5). Angel Vargas added 11 points.