Jeff Smith noon, March 8
El Camino upends No. 9 Poway to stay perfect in league
After a rocky preseason, El Camino may be hitting its stride at the right time. The Wildcats knocked off No. 9 Poway 66-59 Tuesday night at home to finish the first round of Palomar League play undefeated.
“A lot of people had doubts about what we were going to do but here we are 5-0,” said El Camino forward Preston Butler. “It’s a testament to how we’ve been working hard in practice and how our coaches are staying on us.”
The game was close and physical throughout. With both teams tied with a minute left in the third quarter, El Camino guard Chris Gorman hit a three to break a 46-46 tie and give the Wildcats the lead headed into the fourth.
In three-point game with five minutes to play, Butler delivered big plays on consecutive possessions. With the shot clock running down, the senior forward nailed a three from the top of the key and then took a charge under El Camino’s basket on the other end of the floor.
“I just took my time,” Butler said about the three. “My dad always said square yourself up to the basket and just do you – don’t change the shot. “
Minutes later, Butler hit another three to put El Camino ahead by seven. Gorman hit five out of six free throws in the closing minutes to hold off Poway (15-7, 3-2 Palomar) and preserve the Wildcats’ seventh victory in eight games.
“He’s not even a senior and he’s stepping up into leadership,” Butler said of Gorman. “Really that’s what we needed this year.”
Gorman led El Camino with 20 points and Butler scored 13 of his 14 points after halftime. Gorman, Butler and guard Trago Cox (15 points) each finished with three three-pointers for the Wildcats.
“El Camino has such a great tradition in basketball – we’re a powerhouse in California,” Butler said. “To try and fill such big shoes is a burden but they really stepped up to the challenge. I love those guys.”
With the win, El Camino (14-8, 5-0) sits alone atop the competitive Palomar League headed into the second round of league play. In a season that had the makings of a down year for the Wildcats, it appears the defending Division I champs are not going to give up their crown quite so easily.
“We’re warriors,” Butler said. “We don’t give up.”
In the loss, Poway was propelled by center Sam Beeler’s game-high 24 points and a 20-point effort from guard Danny Woodley. After winning eight games in a row, the
Titans have now lost two straight.
El Camino – 66 (13-23-13-17)
Gorman 20, Cox 15, Beard 8, Mitchell 5, Boddie 4 (starters) Butler 14
Poway – 59 (14-17-15-13)
Beeler 24, Woodley 20, Cocoris 5, Gil 0, Moreno 0 (starters) Rowson 5, Green 3, Long 2
El Camino guard Trago Cox dribbles around Poway guards Tadd Cocoris (22) and Alex Rowson