It was obvious when the El Camino basketball team stepped on the court for its second-round Southern California Regional playoff game against visiting Glendale that its players were rusty.
The Warriors (22-8), the No. 3 seed, had not played a game in 11 days, and it was evident in their 64-60 win over the No. 19 seed Vaqueros, who had defeated Golden West in double overtime Saturday.
El Camino was sloppy at times but managed to shave a 10-point Glendale lead midway through the second half in less than two minutes.
That tied the score at 49. The Warriors fell behind by small margins after that but tied the game again with 3:07 left to play (58-58).
Kevin Mixon, who led the Warriors with 17 points, sank the two free throws that secured the game for El Camino with eight seconds left. The senior guard scored 13 of his points in the second half.
“I told them,” said El Camino Coach Ron McClurkin, “that if we start slow offensively, we’ll have to count on defense. And it was our defense that did it for us in the end.”
The end was good for El Camino, but the beginning was a nightmare.
The first half was ugly. Both teams resembled a herd of cattle running wildly into one another. El Camino’s shooting was especially bad. Mixon’s lethal outside shot and Zlatco Josic’s reliable jumper were more than off. Both players shot air balls towards the end of the half. Mixon had only four points at half time and Josic a mere two.
Center Charles Evans led the Warriors in the first half with 10 of his 15 points. Evans’ aggressive play wasn’t enough, however, to give El Camino a half-time lead. In fact, the only time the Warriors led in the first half was at 6-4 with 14:29 remaining.
The Warriors will play host to No. 6 seed Riverside in Saturday’s bracket final.