SAN BERNARDINO — It’s still early days for the CIF Southern Section Division 4AA Men’s Basketball Playoffs, but the final two games of the 64th Annual Kiwanis Tournament showed promise for the future.
Eisenhower and Fontana both played tough on defense and Eisenhower won 49-46 to clinch the championship at Arroyo Valley High School on Thursday night. Both of these teams are in Division 4AA of the Sectional Playoffs, as are Arrowhead, who finished in his 3rd place and his 4th place in the tournament with his Christian and Redlands.
Eisenhower’s coach Sean Harddge and his family is an example of tournament tradition. His father, Arthur, played for San Bernardino High School in the 1960s. His son, Sean Jr., started for Eisenhower in Thursday night’s game.
“It’s the first time in six years that Eisenhower has played in a tournament,” Hage said. “I remember going to competitions when I was little.”
Eisenhower (9-7) beat Fontana (10-6) by 13 points in a non-league match two weeks ago, but the Steelers have presented a tougher challenge this time around.
“They scouted us well and put a lot of pressure on the ball,” said Hardge, his first season in charge of the program. I had some players who had just gotten .”
There were four lead changes in the first two minutes of the fourth quarter. Eisenhower took the lead outright when his MVP of the tournament, Cameron Gardner, hit his 3-point shot to give the Eagles his 43–41 lead.
Stanley Thomas III made a free throw with 4:12 remaining to give the Eagles a 3-point lead. Zyere Johnson-Curry tied up the game with his two free throws to Fontana 12 seconds later.
A three-pointer by Thomas with just over a minute remaining was answered by Jesús Avalos with a 3-pointer from Fontana to cut the deficit to 47-46. Fontana forced a turnover with 13.5 seconds remaining, and Steelers coach Mel Wilkins engineered what he thought was the game-winning play.
“We had a backdoor playset,” said Wilkins.
Gardner added two free throws with 1.1 seconds left to seal the deal.
“We’re trying to build a program,” says Wilkins. “Fifth place last year, second place this year. We’re on the right track.”