The members of the Calipatria High School basketball team had played quite a few games together before Saturday's San Diego Section 1-A boys' final in the Sports Arena.
So, it was fitting that Coach Terry Taylor and his team culminated six seasons of hard work with a 63-53 victory over La Jolla Country Day for the championship.
"I started coaching most of these kids in the seventh grade, " Taylor said. "When they went on to high school, I went with them."
A year ago, Calipatria lost to Army-Navy in the 1-A final.
"The experience difference definitely showed this year," Taylor said.
Calipatria also held an edge in quickness. The Hornets ran to a 30-22 halftime lead.
La Jolla Country Day wanted to slow Calipatria by controlling the boards. La Jolla's smallest front-line starter is 6-foot 4-inch Brad Moores; Calipatria's tallest is 6-2 Sean Taylor.
La Jolla outrebounded Calipatria, 47-37, but the Torres committed 24 turnovers against the Hornets' pressure defense.
Calipatria maintained an eight-point lead through the second half, extending it to 11 on two occasions. Mario Ortiz led the Hornets with 13 points, including two driving layups after La Jolla had pulled within five midway through the fourth quarter. Alfonso Romero had 11 and Mike Fong and Taylor added 10 each for Calipatria.
La Jolla was led by Jason Belice's 15 points. Phil Holoubek , who averaged 25.3 points a game, was held to 14.