DOWNEY - The Warren High boys basketball team had one last tuneup Wednesday night before it begins play in the San Gabriel Valley League, but unfortunately for them, it appears they still need a little work.
Freddy Pepper scored 15 points and David Suartz had 12 as Fountain Valley raced out to a big lead in the first half and held on to beat the Bears, 49-40, in a nonleague game at Warren High.
The Barons (10-5) jumped out to a 10-1 lead in the first quarter, forcing the Bears (10-7) to try to play catch-up the rest of the game.
"We came out cold," Warren coach Brent Willis said. "The 13 points we scored at halftime were the lowest we've had all season and this was also our poorest shooting night. And on the defensive end, we could have done better against their main guys and we didn't get a hand in the face of their shooters.
"And even when we did come back, it seemed they would hit a big shot. I'm a little frustrated because we're a better team than we showed."
The Bears, who were led by Chris Maheras' 16 points and Brandon Chavers' 12, trailed 21-13 at halftime and 35-24 at the end of three quarters. But they did manage to make a game of it in the fourth quarter.
They cut Fountain Valley's lead down to just 40-35 on two free throws by Mohammed Chehata with 3:59 remaining in the game.
However, on the Barons' next possession, Suartz scored down low to increase their lead to seven points. Maheras answered right back with a bucket of his own to get Warren back to within five points.
But Fountain Valley proceeded to score five straight points to seal the win as Rory Rodriguez iced the game with two free throws with a minute left.
The Bears will try to regroup next week when they host Lynwood on Jan. 9 in an SGVL opener for both schools.
The Bears figure to have their work cut out for them against the Knights, who have a 12-2 record heading into their two games over the weekend in Las Vegas.
"The SGVL is just brutal this season," Willis said. "Lynwood is going to contend for the title but, hopefully, we can execute better against them. That's what it comes down to. We'll be ready for them."
Wednesday's game was also the last preseason contest for Fountain Valley, which will begins play in the Sunset League 7 p.m. Friday at Los Alamitos.
Griffins coach Russ May was in attendance, scouting the Barons and after the game said he came away impressed.
"It's always a battle when you get into Sunset League play and Friday won't be any different," May said. "Fountain Valley is very physical, they're very big and they're well coached. They're getting hot at just the right time."