STATE BASKETBALL PLAYOFFS : 3-A : Corona del Mar Thinking Title After 69-63 Upset of No. 1 Rolling Hills

Times Staff Writer

Last fall, it happened to its football team, its water polo team, its girls' tennis team and its boys' cross-country team. A Southern Section and/or State championship for each.

Could championship magic now be running with the Corona del Mar boys' basketball team?

It certainly seemed to be Wednesday night, as Corona del Mar stunned top-seeded Rolling Hills, 69-63, in a Southern Section 3-A quarterfinal game at Estancia High School.

The victory advances Corona del Mar (17-9) to a semifinal game against fourth-seeded Morningside (20-4) Friday night at a site to be determined. Morningside defeated Brea-Olinda, 75-72, Wednesday night.

Corona del Mar opened the game with a 7-0 run, and managed to hold its momentum through the first half, gaining a 32-31 lead at halftime.

But although Rolling Hills seemed to enter the third quarter with a renewed intensity--sparked by three-point shots by Steve Clover and Mark Teser to take a 39-38 lead--Corona del Mar responded with patience and precision.

Led by Brian Spratt's eight points--six on three consecutive shots inside--the Sea Kings outscored Rolling Hills, 21-10, in the third quarter to take a 53-41 lead into the fourth quarter.

That lead wasn't nearly as comfortable as Corona del Mar might have thought, though, as Rolling Hills opened the fourth quarter with an 8-0 run, holding Corona del Mar scoreless until Spratt sank two free throws with 3:55 remaining in the game to give the Sea Kings a 55-49 lead.

Although Rolling Hills went to a full-court press and tried to churn out some points with three-pointers, the Sea Kings held on. The Sea Kings converted 10 of 13 free throws in the final two minutes.

Spratt, who led the Sea Kings with 22 points, also had three steals, two blocked shots and held Rolling Hills' top player John Hardy, who had been averaging 28 points, to 16. Warren Johnson added 18 points and Matt Cwiertnia 13 for Corona del Mar, which played without starter Matt Herrington, who sprained his ankle in a practice last Saturday.

"They played tough, they played harder and they just played better than we did," Rolling Hills Coach Cliff Warren said. "They kept us out of our game entirely."

The victory was sweet for Corona del Mar, the Sea View League's No. 3 representative. In 1987, Rolling Hills eliminated the Sea Kings in the 3-A semifinal round, 56-54.

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