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Granada Hills Beats San Fernando, 80-67

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San Fernando High basketball Coach Dick Crowell had a simple reason for his team’s quick exit from the City Section 3-A playoffs Friday night at Granada Hills High.

“They kicked our butts,” Crowell said. “They just took it to us.”

Granada Hills’ 80-67 victory over San Fernando puts the Highlanders in Friday’s championship game at the Sports Arena. They will meet Birmingham, a 58-56 winner over Los Angeles in Friday’s other semifinal.

Granada Hills (19-4) got a combined 61 points and 21 rebounds from center Gary Gray and forward Sam Puathasnanon to defeat San Fernando (15-9).

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Gray led all scorers with 32 points, and had 12 rebounds. He had 21 points in the second half, when Granada Hills erased a five-point halftime deficit and blew the game open.

Puathasnanon, who had a game-high 26 points in Wednesday’s quarterfinal against North Hollywood, came back with 29 points against San Fernando, hitting 9 of 12 shots and 11 of 13 free throws. He also had nine rebounds.

Between them, the Highlander pair hit 21 of 31 shots (68%) and 19 of 23 free throws (83%).

But even with those performances, it is doubtful Granada Hills would be in the final if it had not figured out a way to solve San Fernando’s high-pressure defense.

The Highlanders committed 15 first-half turnovers against San Fernando’s full-court pressure, and trailed, 36-33, at halftime. But they adjusted at halftime and had just seven turnovers in the second half.

“I told them we’ve got to handle the pressure to win,” Granada Hills Coach Bob Johnson said. “We just tried to move the ball quickly when we got double-teamed. We can’t practice against pressure because we don’t do it that well.”

Granada Hills scored the first eight points of the third quarter, four by Gray, to take a 41-36 lead. Gray had 10 points in the third period and Puathasnanon had nine to help put the Highlanders up, 56-51, going into the final quarter.

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San Fernando’s Terry Hill hit a jumper to open the fourth period, then Granada Hills went on a 9-0 run to take a 65-53 lead. The Highlanders’ advantage ballooned to 76-60 with just over minute to play, and both coaches began emptying their benches.

“Gray played great,” Crowell said. “We don’t have anybody to stop him. At the beginning of the year I picked Granada Hills or us to win the 3-A title.”

San Fernando’s 6-5 forward Shelton Boykin hounded Gray most of the night, but was ineffective, as the 6-9 senior hit 12 of 19 shots.

“When Gray is played one-on-one, he plays very well,” Johnson said. “He seems to rise to the occasion for a big game.”

Boykin led San Fernando with 17 points and had seven rebounds. Sean DeClouet (12 points), Joe Mauldin (10) and Tory Stephens (10) also scored in double figures for the Tigers. Center Charles Thomas added 11 rebounds.

San Fernando hit just 43 percent of its shots, while Granada Hills was 28 of 45 (62%)--an incredible 14 of 20 (70%) in the second half.

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