With only five seniors, Huntington Park High School is one of the youngest boys’ basketball teams in the Eastern League.
Arguably, the Spartans’ youth is one of the reasons why they’ve had an up-and-down season.
Senior Chris Tovar provided some much-welcomed leadership Monday in leading the Spartans to a 42-36 victory over Roosevelt.
Tovar scored a game-leading 16 points – all in the second half – and had a key defensive rebound to seal the win as the visiting Spartans won for the third time in four games to even their league record to 4-4 and lift their overall mark to 14-12.
“We’ve got a young team and we play like a young team at times, but we’re getting better,” coach Joe Reed said.
Huntington Park plays its next three games at home. The Spartans played South Gate Feb. 4 and host Garfield at 7:30 p.m. Feb. 6 and South East at 5:30 p.m. Feb. 11. They play arch-rival Bell in the final league game at 4 p.m. Feb. 13.
Both teams got off to a sluggish start Monday at Roosevelt. The teams left the court at halftime with the score tied, 15-15. Tovar, a 6-foot guard, scored 10 points in the third quarter, including a three-pointer to give his team a 31-29 lead.
But Roosevelt’s Bernardo Cruz scored a layup with two seconds left in the period to tie the score, 31-31.
Tovar nailed a three-pointer to open the fourth quarter and David Leon followed with another to give the Spartans a 37-31 lead.
Remarkably, Roosevelt was unable to catch the Spartans, who didn’t score another basket and made only five of 13 free throw attempts the rest of the way.
In fact, Huntington Park finished the game making only 10 of 25 free throw attempts. Roosevelt shot only four free throws the entire game and made one.
Scoring on four three pointers, Juan Espitia scored 12 points to lead Roosevelt. With the loss, the Rough Riders dropped to a disappointing 10-12 overall and 2-5 in league.
Roosevelt opened league play with a 54-45 win at Huntington Park Jan. 14. But it’s been rough going ever since.
“We had a good preseason but we’ve been inconsistent ([in league],” said coach Mario Perez, whose team was 8-7 against nonleague opponents.
“We played a good game against Garfield, losing by only four points and we had a 16-point lead going into the fourth quarter at Bell,” he said. Bell (7-1 in league) and Garfield (6-1) are in a two-team race for the league title.
“I’m doing all I can to right the ship and get us ready for the playoffs,” Perez said.
Roosevelt plays three straight home games, starting with South Gate at 5:30 p.m. Feb. 6. The Rough Riders play South East at 5:30 p.m. Feb. 9 and Bell at 4 p.m. Feb. 11.
They play arch-rival Garfield at 7 p.m. Feb. 13 at Garfield.