By Keith Lair, Staff Writer
Temple City High School’s Felix Awujo made the most of his shot opportunities. Covina did not. Awujo, who did not arrive until the end of the third quarter because of a doctor’s appointment, scored back-to-back baskets and Covina’s Edgardo Campos and Mike Peters saw their shot attempts go in and out with seconds to play. The result was a 49-48 Temple City victory in an Azusa Tournament pool-play championship game on Wednesday evening. The Rams will play for the tournament title tonight.
Tied at 44, Awujo hit a 20-footer to give the Rams a 47-44 lead with 2:22 to play. After the Colts took a 48-47 lead, he hit a 17-footer with 48 seconds remaining.
“Thank God I came in time,” the junior said. “I just had the shots and I took them.”
The Rams trailed by as many as nine points in the third quarter. The combination of Awujo, usually a starter, and an 0-for-6 shooting start by Covina allowed the Rams to rally.
“I didn’t know if he was going to show up,” Temple City coach Eric Chin said of Awujo. “He helped us a lot. He brought a lot of energy when he came in. I was very surprised by what he did. But I couldn’t hold him out too much longer.”
Temple City hit four of its six 3-point attempts in the fourth quarter and shot 56.2 percent (9 of 16) from behind the arc for the game.
“It’s good to know you have a team to support you,” Awujo said. “It’s nice knowing you don’t have to rely on one man.”
The Colts had more then their share of chances to win the game in the closing seconds. Kevin Quach’s shot from the corner glanced off the side of the backboard. The Colts fouled Ryan Cosato with 19 seconds left. He missed the front end of the one-and-one.
Covina’s Matt Hicks got the rebound and Campos, who had 18 of his game-high 22 points in the second half, had a 2-foot shot attempt roll in to the basket and then out.
“I felt confident going to the basket,” he said. “We did not have have a set play. I just missed it.”
Peters got the rebound, but his shot did the exact same stunt. Temple City’s Kasmir Khaliq got the rebound and held the ball, resulting in a jump ball with a second remaining. Covina had the possession arrow and called timeout. Quach’s inbound lob pass went over Campos’ head.
“We had the ball in the right guy’s hands,” Covina coach Will Bissman said. “He scores a lot of baskets for us. We just couldn’t get it in.”
The Rams won their fifth consecutive game after an 0-2 start for first-year coach Chin, who replaced longtime coach Rich Hollinger.
“It’s hard taking over for Rich because he did a lot for our program,” said Chin, who was an assistant coach for three seasons. “I’m just trying to be as good of a coach as he was when he was here. When he was done I wanted to step in and see what I could do. It’s a learning process for us.”
Covina, which was undefeated in the tournament going into the game, jumped out to a big lead in the third quarter, scoring 13 consecutive points.
Most of those were at the hands of Campos, who went 6 for 6 with 14 of Covina’s 19 points in the quarter. He was getting them from the outside, hitting a 3-pointer, and inside, too.
“We said we need to get him the ball,” Bissman said. “He’s been really improving lately. Our guys got him the ball.”
It took a first-half technical foul, for disagreeing with a referee’s call, to get him going. He made 7 of his 10 shots.
“My emotion got the best of me,” he said. “Coach told me to take over and pray for others to help.”
Temple City did not get going again until the start of the fourth quarter. The Rams scored nine consecutive points to close the gap to 42-41. They were running a double-team trap against point guard Peters, who had 11 of his 16 points in the first half.
“We made a ton of mental mistakes that we have coached them not to do, and we did them all,” Bissman said. “I’m glad we did them before league.”
Campos missed the front end of a one-and-one and Goren Lee hit his third 3-pointer of the game to give the Rams their first lead since the start of the second half.
“We just buckled down on defense,” Chin said. “We knew their main guy (Peters) wanted to drive, so we kept throwing another guy at him.”
Matt Der led the Rams with 11 points.