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Bell-Jeff basketball coach loses one to former player, now at La Salle

Boys' basketball: Guards have trouble maintaining momentum in losing MLK tournament game to Lancers, 67-59.

January 20, 2014|By Jeff Tully, jeff.tully@latimes.com
(Tim Berger Staff…)

PASADENA — Eli Essa and Ernest Baskerville have a friendship that goes back more than 25 years, back to when Essa was Baskerville's Ameteur Athletic Union coach on a youth boys' basketball team in the San Fernando Valley.

When Baskerville became the basketball coach at Providence two seasons ago, he asked Essa to be one of his assistant coaches. And when Baskerville took over the Pasadena La Salle job prior to this season, he again asked Essa to assist him. Both times Essa respectfully declined.

Essa, a former boys' coach at Bellarmine-Jefferson, did, however, agree to be an assistant this season for the Guards under Coach Julian Andrade.

Andrade had a business event he had to attend to when his Bell-Jeff team took on La Salle in a Martin Luther King Showdown game, leaving Essa in charge of the Guards. That left Baskerville to match wits with his former coach in the opening game of the event Monday morning at La Salle.

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Although Bell-Jeff played well in spurts, it couldn't sustain a high level of play throughout the contest and asa result, absorbed a 67-59 loss against the Lancers.

PHOTOS: Bell-Jeff vs. La Salle boys basketball MLK Day Showdown tournament

"He was a good student of mine and I've probably forgotten a lot of the stuff that I taught him," a laughing Essa said about Baskerville. "When you play against one of Ernest's teams, you know they're going to be well coached. They are going to play great defense, and switch up different defenses, and I know he is great at developing players, which he has at La Salle."

Baskerville, the tournament director, said it was a pleasure to go up against his former coach at his own event. It was second time the two have played one another, the other coming in 2008 when Essa's Guards lost to a Baskerville-coached Los Angeles Center for Enriched Studies team, 60-54.

"It's always fun to go against my old coach. But I have to remind him I'm 2-0 against him," Baskerville said with a smile. "But he's a really good guy."

A fine player in his own right, Baskerville lost all of his trophies and awards from his youth. When Essa and Bell-Jeff showed up for the game Monday, the coach brought along a trophy from a tournament Baskerville took part in 25 years ago. Essa gave the trophy to Baskerville.

"I couldn't believe it," Baskerville said. "That's the only one I've got."

With the pleasantries out of the way, the Guards (10-7) and Lancers (8-12) opened the showcase with a hard-fought game.

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