El Camino Holds Off Hilltop Rally in Playoff Opener

El Camino High School Coach Ray Johnson thought a timeout was needed.

His No. 1-ranked Wildcats' 28-14 first-half lead over Hilltop had dwindled to 39-38 with 4:50 left in the third quarter of Tuesday night's 2-A boys basketball playoff at El Camino.

After the timeout, El Camino outscored 10-2 and rolled to a 72-60 victory.

El Camino (22-2) advances to the semifinals Friday at Mira Mesa.

"We fell asleep," said Wildcat center Nate Reed, who had 10 points and 7 rebounds. "Coach told us we weren't gonna be champs if we kept playing like this."

"We were just walking around," added forward Steve Heard, who had 15 points.

Johnson stayed with his starters almost the entire game and it paid off in balanced scoring. Swingman Kenny Crawford had 20 points, 9 rebounds and 8 assists. Point guard Randy Hale added 17 points and 9 assists.

Dave Mossman paced the Lancers (9-17) with 22 points. Center Judd Rachow had 14.

Based on the records of the clubs, the game looked like a mismatch. It's that kind of thinking El Camino was trying to avoid.

"I didn't want to take them for granted," said Crawford. "When you do that, you lose."

El Camino led 17-11 at the end of the first quarter, a quarter which culminated with Lancer guard Willie Gaytan hitting a 40-foot shot at the buzzer.

The Wildcats extended their lead to 28-14 with 3:47 left in the half on back-to-back jumpers by Heard. After the first 24 minutes, El Camino led Hilltop, 35-26.

But the Lancers came alive at the the start of the second half. Rachow scored two baskets, Jim McCurty had a layup and so did Don Sharkey. El Camino put in just two baskets during that stretch, which made the score 39-38 with 4:50 in the third.

"Once we got it close," said Mossman, "we started to run with them, which we can't do. Our game plan was to slow it down."

But Mossman was not disconsolate.

"A lot of people didn't expect us to play as well as we did against the No. 1 team," Mossman said. "We were nervous going into the game, but we kept our composure."

Patrick Henry 80, Vista 58--Forward Howard Wright scored a game-high 19 points to lead the City Eastern League champion Patriots to the first-round victory at home.

"We were so up for this game, that you almost had the feeling we couldn't lose," Wright said. "As a team we could've played better. But in getting the win, we're happy with our performance."

The No. 2-ranked Patriots (23-1) jumped to a 33-24 halftime lead and were never threatened. Kensey Smith added 15 points and Darryl Gaines had 14. Ron Howard led Vista (14-11), the Palomar League runners-up, with 18 points.

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