Besant Hill squad takes CIF-SS title in first year of league play
By Mike Miller
In just their first year of CIF play, the Besant Hill Coyotes and their Cameroon Connection made history last Friday night when they defeated Hope Centre Academy of Compton, 74-63. With the victory, the Coyotes claimed the school's first-ever CIF title. Head coach Randy Bertin said, "This has meant so much to our players, students, and everyone connected to Besant Hill School. There is a different energy around our campus and we all just keep looking at the championship trophy."
Leading up to the title game, the Coyotes had been leveling their opponents, winning by an average of 32 points per game, but Hope Centre Academy presented some challenges for Besant Hill. The game went back and forth and included 12 lead changes and four ties. "They were an extremely athletic team and they took 82 shots in the game, which is a lot of shots. All season we worked on our conditioning so that we would not get beat in the fourth quarter of games and I really think that is why we were able to pull away late in the game," added Bertin.
With the game tied at the half, the Coyotes made some adjustments in the locker room which allowed them to pull away late in the game. "All week we worked on rebounding and blocking out. We knew that they were going to take a lot of shots and that we needed to box out. Early in the game they were killing us on the offensive boards. In the first half, they had 17 offensive rebounds but after we made some adjustments, they only managed three in the second half. I think that was the key to the game," noted Bertin.
The Coyotes were led by junior superstar Yannick Atanga, who scored 35 points and grabbed 16 rebounds. Bertin said, "Yannick really played well, he did so many things right for us." Not to be outdone, sophomore Francois Tchoyi put home 23 points and recorded 16 rebounds as well. Ivan Matip, who has been the floor general all season for Besant Hill, scored 14 points and snatched 12 rebounds from his point guard position.
After clinching their first title, Bertin was asked what this accomplishment would mean to the school. "I think that it will mean that our school and our students will be viewed as being well-rounded. When we started our athletics program, we said from the beginning that we wanted to do it right and we wanted our kids to develop a life-long love for athletics and living a healthy lifestyle. I think that we are off to a good start. When I look at the players that we have that really did not have much experience playing basketball, I see how far they have come and how much they have improved and I think that they will play basketball for the rest of their lives. That is what this was all about."
Besant Hill fans have a lot to look forward to next season as well. The team will graduate only two players and according to Bertin, all of his other players will be back. "Our weakness is our depth, so hopefully we can get improve on that next year by getting some new freshmen in here," he said.
With their win over Hope Centre, Besant Hill earned a spot in the CIF Southern California Division V Tournament. The Coyotes hosted a very good Mission Prep team from San Luis Obispo last Monday night at Thacher in front of an enthusiastic home crowd. The Coyotes exploded out the gate, claiming a 10-1 lead to open the game. The first half was textbook high school basketball as both teams executed their game plans flawlessly. The Royals took a slim 33-32 lead into the half, thanks in large part to the stellar play of their leading scorer, Robert Souza.
In the second half, Mission Prep benefitted from a couple of questionable foul calls late in the game that put the Coyotes in foul trouble and their lack of depth began to come into play. In the third quarter, Tchoyi picked up his fourth foul and was forced to the bench and then Atanga fouled out in the fourth quarter on a mystery foul away from the ball. Despite a valiant effort by Matip to keep Besant Hill in the game, they lost 72-60.
Souza led all scorers with 32 points while Matip poured in 28 and Atanga added 18. After the game, an appreciative crowd thanked the Coyotes for their historical season with a long-standing ovation and a chant of "BHS." The team finished their season with a 22-2 record and a championship banner.
With tears running down her cheeks, a Besant Hill fan on her way out of the gymnasium said, "I am so proud of those boys. They brought so much joy to all of us this season. We are sad to see the season end."