Boys basketball (16-2) defeated El Camino High School (9-7) 57-54 in the Jan. 12 away game that was heavy in rough, physical contact.
After the tip-off, the Falcons did not start off incredibly strong due to the powerful crowd presence. While exchanging free throws and layups with the Wildcats, the Falcons gradually fell behind.
“Their crowd was amazing. They really made their presence felt and got to us,” Falcons’ small forward Brandon Angel (10) said. “Once the game got close, rough fans were yelling and throwing things at us.”
Not accustomed to the aggressive gameplay and missing calls from the referees, the Falcons were unable to get back in rhythm and found themselves trailing as the first quarter came to a close.
Despite the deficit, the Falcons gradually closed the gap with a couple scores by Finn Sullivan (12) and Michael Pope (11) who would both become significant in the Falcons’ eventual win.
The Falcons’ play in the second quarter was an improvement compared to the first quarter, which helped them cut the deficit to 33-26 by the end of the quarter.
Because they were trailing due to a slow start, the Falcons focused on offensive efficiency in the second half.
“We came out stagnant and failed to run our offense the way we wanted to because of their pressure. They came out with a lot more energy than us, which helped them build an early lead,” Sullivan said. “The mindset I had to begin the second half was to focus on getting more early offense.”
The Falcons began the third quarter down 33-26 against the Wildcats. As soon as the quarter began, the Wildcats continued their momentum after their guard set his feet for an immediate three-pointer. Afterward, both teams continued to score in the paint and get on the scoreboard with free throws.
The Falcons flustered the Wildcats when Bryce Pope (11) successfully drained an open, mid-range shot, which lead to an El Camino timeout. Even with the timeout, El Camino failed to get in rhythm, so the Falcons took advantage of the situation and dropped another three-pointer. Although the Wildcats immediately responded with a three-pointer of their own, the Falcons had successfully narrowed the Wildcat lead to 45-40 by the end of the third quarter, thanks to a great offensive turnaround.
Continuing their offensive momentum, the Falcons were able to jump to a small lead to start the third quarter. But, soon after, the Wildcats answered with an and-one play for the full three points.
The two teams traded free throws and layups early in the quarter, and the game got aggressive from there.
In a pivotal moment, Sullivan came in contact with an El Camino player and fell to the floor writhing in pain. While the game took a short pause, the referees had not called any fouls and the Falcons coaching staff made their
disapproval to the playcalling known.
“I thought it was physical throughout the game. The referees let it happen and we have to adjust to that style of game, if that is what they are going to let happen,” Coach John Olive said.
Enduring the tough calls, atmosphere, and physical contact, the Falcons eventually gave up free throws to the Wildcats, who tied the game up at 49-49 with only 3:40 left in the game.
The two teams gave it their all in a seesaw game in which the lead changed five times in the final three minutes.
With the pressure on and in the final seconds, Sullivan stepped to the line and hit two clutch free throws giving the Falcons a 57-54 lead.
The Wildcats had one last chance to come across the court, score and take the win, but the referees called travelling on the Wildcats.
TPHS inbounded the ball and was immediately fouled, which resulted in two free throws. With less than five seconds remaining, the Wildcats threw up a desperate three-pointer that hit the rim but bounced out.
The Falcons began celebrating their close victory toward the end of the game.
“Once we started to settle in during the 3rd quarter, we knew we would have a good chance to win, and we were all super pumped after the game because it was a big road win,” Bryce Pope said.
Coach Olive appreciated the practice the Wildcats game provided.
“El Camino had a great crowd, and it made it tough for us to communicate. It was a really good environment for us to play in because, when the playoffs come, we will have to deal with lots of environments just like that.” Olive said.
“Despite that, at the end of the game, we were able to get a couple defensive stops. We made sure they didn’t get second shots up with offensive rebounds.”
The Falcons played San Dieguito Academy, at home, on Wednesday at home. Next, they face Canyon Crest Academy on Friday at seven p.m, also at home.