Playoff savvy El Camino upsets Otay Ranch in quarterfinals
CHULA VISTA – After a subpar end to the regular season, El Camino is showing that it hasn’t forgotten its recent playoff pedigree. Saturday night at Otay Ranch, the fifth-seeded Wildcats started fast and knocked off the fourth-seeded Mustangs 69-50 in the Division I quarterfinals.
“We know we can play with anyone in San Diego,” said El Camino guard Chris Gorman. “League didn’t show it, but playoffs are a different type of basketball and we know what it takes to win.”
El Camino (25-6) broke open a tied game midway through the first quarter with a 14-0 run that included three Gorman three-pointers. The Wildcats hit five threes in the period and led 26-13 headed into the second quarter.
“We did a lot of shooting in practice,” Gorman said. “We came to the gym ready tonight and I was just feeling it early.”
Otay Ranch (24-5) scored the first seven points of the second quarter to get back into the game. The Mustangs kept pace with El Camino for the rest of the quarter, and Otay Ranch guard Alex Perez converted a three-point play with 2.8 seconds left to make it 38-30 at halftime, after a first half that belonged to the Wildcats.
“We jumped out of the gate really strong,” Gorman said. “We’ve been working on coming out and playing harder than the other team from the start.”
Boosted in the third quarter by a rowdy home crowd, Otay Ranch cut the gap to four points midway through the third quarter when Perez hit a three-pointer to make it 41-37. But El Camino finished the quarter on a 12-4 run, and held Otay Ranch to nine points in the fourth quarter to advance with a comfortable 19-point victory.
“I think we could do this every game; this was a pretty typical game,” Gorman said. “We have the ability to play better than we have been playing, and this is the time to show it.”
Guard Dayton Boddie led El Camino with a game-high 28 points – including 18 in the first half – and Gorman scored 24. The Wildcats advance to Wednesday’s Division I semifinals against top-seeded La Costa Canyon (25-4) and are seeking a fourth straight section finals appearance.
“The experience that we have from the past years was the key for us,” said El Camino head coach Ray Johnson. “We’re used to playing against hostile crowds and the kids know what they are playing for – they’re trying to get to the arena.”
After a 20-1 mark in preseason, El Camino went 3-5 in Avocado West League play and finished third. The Wildcats weren’t exactly entering the postseason on a strong note, but it hasn’t showed in two playoff victories.
“We weren’t worrying about league, because we knew that was already over,” said El Camino guard Trevon Tucker. “We were just worried about playoffs, CIF and state.”
Perez led Otay Ranch with 26 points, despite an off night shooting. El Camino didn’t give the Mustangs’ talented guard much room to operate offensively, playing tight man-to-man defense and occasionally double-teaming him.
“He can play and once we shut him down in the second half, we had it,” Tucker said. “As soon as he came across half court, we had a guy go after him.”
For Otay Ranch, the loss brings an end to the program’s best season since the school opened in 2003. The Mustangs held a 15-game winning streak headed into the game.
El Camino – 69 (26-12-15-16)
Boddie 28, Gorman 24, Snow 8, Beard 6, Tucker 3 (starters)
Otay Ranch – 50 (13-17-11-9)
Perez 26, Olaogun 8, Collins 6, Andre Jones 4, Reyes 4 (starters) Andrew Jones 2
El Camino guard Dayton Boddie drives past Otay Ranch forward Jorge Reyes
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