Garfield High School’s dream season came to an abrupt halt Saturday, as top-seeded Chatsworth rallied for a 66-61 victory to capture the City Section Division III boys’ basketball championship.
On a warm night in a hot and capacity-filled Roybal Learning Center gym, the Bulldogs were cold at the free throw line in the first half, and it proved to be costly.
Garfield led 27-22 at halftime, but could have left the court leading by much more. The Bulldogs, however, made only five of 17 free throw attempts.
“We haven’t been a good free throw shooting team all season and it definitely affected us tonight,” Garfied Coach Ricardo Rivas said. “We practice free throws every day, but they didn’t fall. It wasn’t our night.”
It was, however, another big night for Chatsworth’s Derrick Hector, who drilled five 3-pointers to score a game-high 26 points to lead the Chancellors (25-9) to their first City title.
Hector was at his best when his team needed him most, scoring 12 points in the game’s final five minutes to bring Chatsworth back from a 53-50 deficit. He hit two 3-pointers and converted two free throws to put his team up, 58-53.
“What can you say?” Rivas said. “He hit the tough shots when he had to. He just played a heck of a game. My hat goes off to him and Chatsworth.”
Garfield (21-7) sorely missed its starting point guard David Laroue, who fouled out with 5:30 left in the game. Laroue scored only five points, but the Bulldogs could have used his defense and leadership.
“It really hurt us when Laroue fouled out,” Rivas said. “That’s when Hector got hot. Laroue’s our leader and we kind of go as he goes.”
Both teams were riddled by turnovers in the first half, as they combined for 29 miscues. Chatsworth Coach Scott Switalla said he was disappointed with his team’s sloppy play in the first half.
“We turned the ball over 15 times (in the first half) and I don’t know when we had 15 turnovers in a game, let alone a half.” he said. “Garfield shot terribly at the free throw line to keep us in the game. They turned the ball over and a lot of it was unforced, and we didn’t capitalize. It was a very sloppy game in the first half.”
Junior center Joe Joaquin had a big night for Garfield with 21 points and 19 rebounds. Frankie Aguilar scored 11 points and Mauricio Camacho had seven and Julian Sandoval added six.
Garfield, which rolled to the Eastern League title with an 11-1 record, made its first-ever appearance in a City Section championship game.