Saddleback High School put an end to any talk of an upset or a quarterfinal jinx with a resounding 81-59 victory over Long Beach Jordan in the Southern Section's 5-AA division boys' playoffs before a capacity crowd of 1,500 Wednesday night at Lakewood High.
From the moment guard Craig Marshall took an alley-oop pass from point guard Sean Simon and soared high for a dunk midway through the first quarter, it was apparent that Jordan was no match for top-seeded Saddleback on either end of the court.
Saddleback (26-1) cruised to its 21st consecutive victory by pounding the boards, taking Jordan out of its offense with tenacious, man-to-man defense and generally displaying the poise of a champion.
"All and all, that was about as well as we've played this season," said Pat Quinn, Saddleback's coach. "We hit on all five cylinders. The effort was there, the enthusiasm was there and everyone played well."
It was only a year ago that Saddleback entered the quarterfinals of the 3-A division playoffs as the top-seeded team and was upset by Kennedy, 58-55. Some thought that history would repeat itself because Jordan was a very quick team that matched up well with Saddleback.
But Jordan's quickness was never a factor. The Panthers showed little patience offensively and were often lazy defensively as Saddleback center Malru Dottin dominated play. Dottin scored 23 points and had 16 rebounds despite missing his opening six shots.
"I knew when I was missing, it was just a matter of adjusting," Dottin said. "I still wanted the ball. When I started hitting, they started hammering me and I loved it. I love the contact inside."
Dottin scored 11 points in the second quarter as Saddleback opened a 37-28 lead at halftime and Jordan never got closer than eight points the remainder of the game.
Jordan (18-9) managed to narrow Saddleback's lead to 46-38 late in the third quarter and had possession, but the Panthers missed an ill-advised shot and Simon answered with a three-point shot for a 49-38 cushion.
Afterwards, Ron Massey, Jordan coach, said Saddleback was the best team his team has faced this season.
"We were tense, especially on offense, and took some bad shots," he said. "When we're playing our game, we don't force shots. But they frustrated us with some great defense and took us out of our game. We didn't screen out, and they hammered us on the boards."
Saddleback, which will play host to Lakewood in the semifinals, had a 39-26 rebounding advantage and all five of its starters scored in double figures. So much for the quarterfinal jinx.