LAKE ELSINORE — The message for Lakeside High junior Michael Christener was simple enough: Do not stop shooting the ball.
With the encouragement, Christener overcame a slow start from 3-point range with a torrid second-half stretch as the Lancers boys basketball team defeated Bellflower 80-62 in the second round of the CIF Southern Section Division III-AA playoffs at Lakeside.
Christener missed six of his first seven 3-point attempts, but came back to nail his last five in a row to finish with 18 points and fuel a second-half surge.
"We told him that at halftime: 'Just shoot the ball,' " Lakeside coach Ross Wolter said. "He felt reserved and wanted to pass the ball around and be unselfish. We said, 'Just shoot the ball.' And he did, and it worked out for us.
"It's a tribute to him. We're just so pleased."
Lakeside (18-10) will travel to No. 1 seed Calabasas on Tuesday for a quarterfinal matchup.
Guard Melvin Washington had 22 points, six rebounds, four assists and two steals for Lakeside, the No. 9 seed. His sophomore running mate, E.J. Jackson, chipped in with 16 points and six assists.
George Pele, a 6-foot-5 senior center, had 13 points and 16 rebounds for Bellflower, the No. 8 seed. Daniel Poplar led the Buccaneers with 17. He scored eight points in the first quarter, helping to stake Bellflower to a six-point lead early in the second quarter.
"In the first quarter, we weren't really playing hard or with any emotion," Jackson said. "But at halftime, our coach got on us. He started yelling at us. So, you know, we just came back and started playing hard."
Daymarrco Green hit a pair of 3-pointers in the second quarter to lift the Lancers to a 39-35 halftime lead. Then Christener ignited in the third quarter with 3-pointers on three consecutive possessions. He added one more, a step-back shot, to put Lakeside ahead 60-42 with 1:21 to play in the third quarter.
"At first they weren't guarding me real close, so I was just firing them," Christener said. "And they started guarding me close, then I stepped back and jacked 'em up."
The show impressed Bellflower coach Bryan Kennebrew, as did Lakeside's 50-percent shooting from the floor (29-for-58).
It didn't help that his team was struggling to an 8-for-21 night from the free throw line
"I haven't seen a team shoot like that in a long time," Kennebrew said. "They had some guys (who shot) NBA 3-pointers. It's hard to come back when teams are shooting that well. And we're not shooting it very well, and missing our free throws. But I give them credit. They're a well-coached team and play hard."