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Irvine World News Basketball Tournament : Savanna a Secret No More as Rebels Improve to 9-0

Times Staff Writer

Savanna High School boys’ basketball Coach Tom Gregory describes his team as “kind of a well-kept secret.”

But after a 9-0 start and a 67-46 semifinal victory over Kennedy in the Irvine World News Tournament Friday night, the cat’s out of the bag.

Savanna meets Irvine, a 64-47 winner over University, for the tournament championship tonight at 7:30 at UC Irvine’s Bren Center. The Rebels are one of five undefeated teams remaining in the county.

Savanna took the lead early against Kennedy (7-2) on the strength of its man-to-man defense. The Rebels led, 12-8, at the end of the first quarter.

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Tim Tillman, Savanna’s 6-6, 220-pound center, was a force inside. He repeatedly powered in missed shots for Savanna and ended the night with 21 points.

Kennedy fought back in the third quarter, outscoring Savanna, 18-15, with a scuffle for a loose ball playing a key role. Gregory and Kennedy Coach John Mayberry exchanged words after the play and the altercation ignited Kennedy, which ran off 6 consecutive points to trail, 34-23.

The Fighting Irish then went to a full-court man-to-man defense, forcing turnovers and converting them into baskets. They scored back-to-back baskets to end the third quarter, trailing, 42-35.

Kennedy guard Mike Pettengill hit a 3-point shot at the start of the fourth quarter. Five seconds later, he stole the ball and passed to Tom Deep, whose layup reduced Savanna’s lead to 42-41.

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With just under 6 minutes to play, Kennedy’s Jim Barker made a layup and was fouled on the play. He also converted the free throw, giving Kennedy a 44-43 lead for the first time in the game.

But Savanna’s Ben Smith and Mustapha Abdi were fouled on layups they made. Both made their free throws as the Rebels regained the lead, opening a 50-44 advantage with 4:40 to play.

Savanna began to work the clock, eventually forcing Kennedy to attempt 3-point shots and to foul to stop the clock. The Rebels made 17 of 19 free throws, most of them 1-and-1 situations in the fourth quarter.

“I thought we showed real good poise when they made their comeback,” Gregory said.

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