Coe Lewis, AJ Machado, Jim McInnes, Chris Cantore, Meryl Klemow, Cha Cha Harlow, Robin Roth, Rick Lawrence. Brent Winterble, Mike Slater, Mark Larson, Dana DiDonato, Jayson Prim
Ken Leighton 2:37 p.m., Jan. 28
Wildcats shrug off sluggish second quarter en route to 18-point win
After allowing 34 first-half points to Rancho Bernardo on Wednesday night, top-ranked El Camino ratcheted up their defensive intensity in the second half. The Wildcats turned a potential tough one into a 63-45 home win over the Broncos.
“At halftime we challenged them a little bit and told them we’re a little better than what we showed in the second quarter, that we need to go out and play hard, and they did – they responded,” ” said El Camino head coach Ray Johnson.
El Camino controlled play at the start of the game and led by six at the end of the first quarter. The Wildcats had a 10-point lead midway through the second quarter when Rancho Bernardo went on a 10-2 run to narrow the gap. Broncos center Tanner Clayton hit a three on the last possession of the first half to make it a one-point game at the break.
“We just became really lackadaisical in the second quarter and they did a good job of moving the ball on us,” Johnson said. “We stopped playing and basically stood around.”
After halftime, El Camino simply stifled Rancho Bernardo. The Wildcats relentless full court pressure held the Broncos to only 11 points in the final 16 minutes.
El Camino was ahead by seven with 3:51 left to play when point guard Griffin Hunter nailed a three-pointer that would put the game out of reach. Hunter’s deep ball sparked a 13-0 Wildcats run to help them win the game going away.
“Every game is a battle. We tell our kids that and you just have to keep working hard,” Johnson said. “The other guys are going to beat each other – as long as we beat the guy in front of us we are going to be okay.”
One of the biggest differences in the game was free throw shooting. El Camino shot 10-of-14 from the line while Rancho Bernardo went only 9-for-23.
Center Luke Evans led El Camino (18-3, 3-0 Palomar) with 19 points and was one of three Wildcats in double figures along with guards Ryan Ena (17 points) and Hunter (13). For Rancho Bernardo (13-7, 1-2), Clayton scored a game-high 24 points and guard Steven Davis chipped in 10.
Currently ranked first in the section, El Camino is one of three teams in the discussion for the top spot. Hoover and San Diego also make strong cases for No. 1.
“I think we’re in the top three,” Johnson said. “We have a way to go before we get to No. 1. I’m good with where we’re at right now. We just have to get better.”
Rancho Bernardo guard Steven Davis guards El Camino guard Alan Cox on the perimeter