After stepping on the court together five times this season, Calipatria and Imperial high schools from the Desert League traveled about 120 miles Thursday for a sixth meeting.
Of course, the site was a bigger than usual--the San Diego Sports Arena. And the stakes were higher--the San Diego Section Division V boys' basketball championship.
But the Calipatria whammy was still in place. The Hornets won, 56-45, to earn their second consecutive Division V title and fifth victory over Imperial this season.
"It's a natural rivalry for the kids," Calipatria Coach Wallace Williams said. "Our kids get more pumped up when they play Imperial."
Especially 120 miles from home, in a championship game in the Sports Arena. And particularly when Calipatria (17-7) was seeded No. 4 and Imperial (13-10) No. 2 in the tournament despite their regular-season meetings.
The tone was set early for Calipatria, when Vince Coleman nailed two three-point shots in the first quarter to help the Hornets to a 16-12 lead.
It continued through the second quarter, when a full-court press helped Calipatria increase its lead to 28-18 at halftime.
By the end of the third quarter, Calipatria had a 44-29 lead, and it was all over.
Coleman led Calipatria with 17 points, Mike Moss had 15 and Enrique Barraza 13.
"Coach told me to shoot if I had the open shot, so I did," said Coleman, a 5-foot-10 senior. "The first three-pointer I hit, I didn't even know I was in three-point territory."
The Calipatria press forced 17 Imperial turnovers, but Imperial coach Kerry Legarra pointed to missed free throws as the difference in the game. Imperial made just five of 13 attempts, a bad enough percentage made worse by the fact that seven of its misses were the front ends of one-and-ones.
"They outplayed us and outhustled us," Legarra said. "The game was lost at the free-throw line."
Brian Williams scored 12 points for Imperial, which played without 6-foot-5 center Fabian Diaz. The Desert League's most valuable player this season, Diaz averaged 15 points and 11 rebounds a game. He sprained an ankle in Imperial's semifinal victory over Marian.