Temecula Valley's Michael Price drives to the net as Fullerton Sunny Hills Max Thurman guards him during CIF-SS second round playoff game Tuesday night.
TEMECULA Snakebit by injuries and a couple of heartbreaking losses, Temecula Valley’s Southwestern League season didn’t go exactly as planned as it finished tied for fourth at 4-6.
But the talented Golden Bears have gotten the regular-season blues out of their system in the playoffs.
On Tuesday night, Temecula Valley sailed to an 89-71 victory over visiting Fullerton Sunny Hills in the second round of the CIF Southern Section Division II-AA playoffs.
The Bears’ prospects looked bleak a few weeks ago when they dropped three straight games to end the regular season. Adding to the anguish, Temecula Valley was missing leading scorers Brandon Rosser (knee) and Michael Price (concussion) during its final two games.
Back to full strength since that time, Temecula Valley (16-13) has strung together two playoff wins by double-digit margins and it is headed to the quarterfinal round for the first time since 2004.
Showing no ill-effects from his injury, Rosser erupted for 11 first-quarter points en route to a 25-point, eight-rebound effort Tuesday night.
The 6-foot-8 Rosser felt confident that he would have a productive game after he scored his first basket shortly after the opening tip off.
“Nobody here that can guard me,” Rosser said. “I told the coaches (that). I was just going to control the game from the paint in the beginning and that’s what I went out there and did.”
Price’s impact on the Bears was evident, too. The senior guard had 16 points, eight rebounds and four assists.
“That was one of the hardest things I have had to go through and sit and watch my team play and not contribute,” said Price of his two-game hiatus. “And it feels so good to be back on the court with my brothers and play as a family.”
Price made a pair of 3s and opened up scoring opportunities for others with his aggressive dribbling through the lanes.
“He continuously attacks,” Temecula Valley coach Kyle Armstrong said. “He’s always putting pressure on the defense.”
The Bears manhandled a smaller Lancers team (22-8) by controlling the paint and winning the rebound battle by a three-to-one margin. Freshman Riley Schaefer led the Bears with nine rebounds.
Armstrong lauded the defensive play of Brian Batchelor for his role in quelling the Lancers’ long-range shooting. Sunny Hills made 12 second-half 3s, but its slow-shooting start (four first-half 3s) was too much to overcome as it trailed 41-25 at the half.
The Southwestern League season seems like ages ago for a Temecula Valley team that is brewing with confidence and is arguably playing its best ball of the season.
“After that (league) season, we just let it go,” said Bears point guard D’aubre Doucette, who had 16 points and six assists. “We put it behind us as this is the third season. Four games to get to CIF and we have the best player (Rosser) right here in CIF on our team.”
The Bears host Manhattan Beach Mira Costa (19-9) Friday in the quarterfinals. The game will be moved to a another local gymnasium because Temecula Valley will be hosting the CIF SS Masters wrestling meet this weekend.