James Escarcega talked to La Verne Lutheran coach Brandon Lee and came back with not only highlights, but exclusive, explosive post game comments from the locker room after the Trojans’ shocking 63-58 victory over 29-0 Bishop Montgomery, ranked No. 1 in Division 4AA and third in the state by MaxPreps.
CIF-Southern Section Boys Basketball Playoffs
Division 2A Quarterfinals
Redondo Union 55, Glendora 41
Division 3AA Semifinals
Damien 61, Corona del Mar 53
Division 4AA semifinals
La Verne Lutheran 63, Bishop Montgomery 58
By Steve Ramirez
NEWPORT BEACH — Damien High School had ventured into the CIF-Southern Section boys basketball semifinals three times during the past four seasons only to have it end in heartache.
That disappointment ended Friday.
Sophomore Jeremy Hemsley scored 25 points and Jared Dizon had 15 and the Spartans advanced to the finals for the first time with a 61-53 victory over host Corona del Mar in a Division 3AA semifinal.
The Spartans improved 24-6 and will face Santa Margarita, a 65-59 winner over Leuzinger, in the finals next week at either Anaheim Arena or Mater Dei High School. The date and time will be announced later.
Blake Grable scored 23 points for the Sea Kings, who dropped to 21-10.
Damien coach Matt Dunn: “It’s a great feeling (to get to the finals). I thought our guys played great. Corona del Mar is a great team. It was a war right to the end, so I’m really proud of our guys.”
Damien’s Jeremy Hemsley: “It’ feels great. This was our goal. We worked hard all season. I think we really deserve it.”
Glendora-Redondo photo gallery
By Fred J. Robledo, Staff Writer
It was clear from the opening tip that visiting Redondo Union was going to spend the night harassing Glendora’s shooters, rushing them off the 3-point line and pressuring them all over the floor.
It worked to perfection.
While Glendora set a school record for three-pointers in a season (252), the Tartans shot a paltry 8-for-27 from behind the arc and that wasn’t nearly enough as Redondo Union handed Glendora a 55-41 defeat in the CIF-Southern Section Division 2A quarterfinals on Friday.
Glendora, which was making its 22nd quarterfinal appearance, ends its season, 19-11.
Glendora’s A.J. Bigornia, who buried six 3-pointers in the second round, was 1-for-7 from distance and didn’t make his only 3-point basket until late in the fourth quarter, finishing with just five points.
Only two players from Glendora finished in double figures, paced by junior Thomas Rico with 21 points and sophomore Brandon Brothers with 11.
It was a rare playoff home loss for Glendora, who falls to 30-3 all-time in playoff games at home.
“They were just trying to take us out of our sets,” said Rico, who was 6-for-16 from 3-point distance. “We normally get players open 3-pointers, but we couldn’t get into it because of their high pressure. It’s tough to spread it around when they’re denying like that.”
The second-seed Sea Hawks were paced by Derek Biale’s 12 points and Chris Henderson’s 11.
The Sea Hawks’ pressure put a dent in the Tartans’ plans early as they raced to a 17-7 first-half lead.
Glendora led only once on Rico’s 3-point shot to start the game.
“We looked at film and knew they were an excellent shooting team,” Redondo Union coach Reggie Morris Jr., said. “They have a legendary coach (Mike LeDuc) and it’s no coincidence three of the top five scorers in state history played here.
“He (LeDuc) does a good job setting those guys up. We definitely decided we were going to cover the 3-point line and force them to beat us another way.”
The Tartans tried to get back it, cutting the Sea Hawks’ lead to 25-24 after Brothers’ 3-point basket late in the first half.
The Tartans trailed only 36-31 midway through the third quarter but a 7-0 Sea Hawks run pushed the lead to 42-31 and the Tartans never got closer than eight points the rest of the way.
“It was frustrating,” Rico said. “We had chances, we just didn’t hit enough shots.”
One of the biggest differences was the Sea Hawks got to the foul line, burying 22-of-29 while the Tartans were just 5-of-7 from the stripe.
LeDuc paused when asked about the free-throw discrepancy, then directed his comments at his teams inability to make shots.
“They’re a good team and they play excellent defense,” LeDuc said. “I still thought we had some good looks, but we didn’t make a lot early and we’re depending on having to make a lot of them.”
Morris Jr., said the Sea Hawks did everything they had to do to get a win.
“In close games you’re going to win them at the free throw line, on turnovers and lay-ups,” Morris Jr., said. “We won the paint, we scored more lay-ups and we were able to defend their three’s and take their shooters off the line.”
Redondo Union (21-8) advances to Tuesday’s semifinal where it will face either Anaheim Canyon or Arroyo Grande.