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Wildcats take over with inside muscle

12/23/2015, 10:09pm PST
By John Maffei

El Camino defeats Kearny for Sweetwater Host Lions Classic championship

El Camino senior Sean Birk, who was named to the all-tournament team, scored a game-high 21 points for the Wildcats, who improved their season record to 10-1.

— Playing with just seven players because of injuries and absences, Kearny hung in for more than three quarters.

But when Robby Robinson fouled out midway through the fourth quarter, the seventh-ranked Komets had no answer for No. 3 El Camino’s inside game as the Wildcats turned a one-point lead into a 63-49 win to claim the championship of the Sweetwater Host Lions Classic at Sweetwater High.

“We got in foul trouble and the game got real choppy,” said El Camino coach Tom Tarantino. “The refs called a tight game, and we had starters (Luke Arvidson and Eric Pierce) sitting out.

“We like to press and trap, and we couldn’t do that because of foul trouble.”

Leading by just a point with 35 seconds to play in the third quarter, El Camino (10-1) had its full team on the floor to start the fourth quarter and went on a 15-3 run to take command of the game.

Sean Birk, an all-tournament selection along with Arvidson, scored nine of his game-high 21 points in the fourth quarter. Jalen Flanagan, who finished with 17 points, scored eight in the fourth.

“We don’t have any high Division I scholarship guys,” Birk said. “But we have a lot of really good players.

“If teams focus on me, Luke should be open. If they focus on Eric Pierce, Flanagan should be free.”

Robinson, an all-tournament selection, had seven points and nine rebounds for the Komets (9-1). He fouled out with 5:03 to play.

Perry Davis, who had four fouls at the half, finally fouled out with 1:36 remaining. He scored 13 of his 18 points in the second half for the Komets.

“Kearny played with a lot of heart,” Tarantino said. “That’s a really good team we played.

“We’re going to play a lot of good teams before the season is over, so it’s good to get challenged like this.”

Trevor McFeeley scored just four points for El Camino, but had 10 rebounds and blocked a pair of shots. Gianni Ortiz had seven points and seven rebounds for Kearny.

“El Camino plays very well together,” said Kearny coach Foad Ahwazi. “They all know their roles.

“We missed Takoda Browne (away on a family trip). He’s our energy guy.”

El Camino’s only loss was 65-52 to Temecula Valley (11-1), a team that is ranked No. 22 in the state.

El Camino returns to action Saturday at 3:30 p.m. against Riverside J.W. North in the MaxPreps Holiday Classic in Palm Springs.

“That’s what I’m talking about,” Tarantino said. “North is a very good team.”

Kearny resumes play Saturday against against Manhattan Beach Mira Costa at La Costa Canyon in the Torrey Pines Holiday Classic.

In the third-place game, Mater Dei Catholic survived a last-second shot and beat Steele Canyon 59-58.

Trey Anderson led Mater Dei with 16 points and had eight rebounds. Miles Norris, who made the all-tournament team, had 10 points and 13 rebounds for the Crusaders while Clifford Kidd added 10 points.

Tyler Smith, an all-tournament selection, led Steele Canyon with 16 points and had eight rebounds. Gage Sanders added 15 points and Marcus White had 14.

In the fifth-place game, Patrick Henry scored at the buzzer in regulation, then beat Horizon 55-50 in overtime. Zach Savage of Henry and Jaylen Hinson of Horizon were named to the all-tournament team.

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