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El Camino gets well at home in regional

03/09/2016, 10:40pm PST
By John Maffei

St. Augustine, Kearny pull stunning upsets on the road in state playoffs


Sean Birk led El Camino with 24 points against Rancho Mirage on Wednesday night.

— Nothing washes away the taste of a bad loss better than a bounce-back victory.

Embarrassed by its poor shooting in a 23-point loss to Kearny in the San Diego Section Division I finals, El Camino made visiting Rancho Mirage pay, beating the Rattlers 90-66 in a SoCal Regional Division IV first-round game Wednesday.

“We thought our season was over,” said El Camino boys basketball coach Tom Tarantino. “Then we got word we were in.

“We played like we got another life. We played like we were excited to get a second chance.”

The Wildcats, who made just 16 baskets against Kearny and shot 30.2 percent, made 31 field goals Wednesday, including eight 3-pointers, and shot 46.9 percent.

“Obviously, playing in our gym helps,” said Tarantino. “Honestly, we were worried. You don’t win 30 games by accident. And Rancho Mirage can score it.

“It took us a while to figure them out. But once we got it going, we were fine.”

El Camino led 27-25 after one quarter but pushed the lead to seven at the half.

A 13-2 run to start the third quarter put the Wildcats up by 18 and the advantage stretched to 28 late in the game.

“We had to forget the Kearny game,” said El Camino senior guard Luke Arvidson. “We looked at this like a new opportunity.

“It was a home game, and we played with some intensity.

“I don’t know what happened against Kearny. We played hard, but we weren’t very focused. We vowed not to let that happen again.”

Sean Birk led El Camino with 24 points. Jalen Flanagan added 20, Eric Pierce 15, Michael Chatman 14 and Arvidson 12.

El Camino outrebounded Rancho Mirage 48-25 with Chatman pulling down a season-high 15 and Pierce grabbing 13.

The No. 8-seeded Wildcats (28-6) will be on the road Saturday at No. 1-seeded Diamond Ranch, a 76-47 winner over Kern Valley.

Ninth-seeded Rancho Mirage, which won its first 30 games, finishes the season 30-2.

Ray Johnson, who won more than 700 games as El Camino coach before leaving to take a job as an assistant at Loyola Marymount, saw his first game in the Wildcats gym since he left for LMU two years ago.

“They might not have invited me back if they hadn’t won,” Johnson said.

Highlights

Division I: Visiting St. Augustine upset No. 5 Corona Centennial 60-59 and in the process the No. 12 Saints earned a home game in the second round Saturday. St. Augustine will host No. 13 Eastvale Roosevelt, which toppled No. 4 L.A. Fairfax.

Division III: No. 15 Kearny, coming off a convincing performance in the section final, ousted No. 2 Huntington Beach Edison 65-58.

Division IV: Grossmont hit the road and upset Pasadena La Salle 58-53.

Division V: Bonita Vista defeated host Capistrano Valley Christian 59-46.

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