Throughout the Southern Section 3-A division playoffs, opposing teams have done their best to contain Trabuco Hills High School’s Rick Swanwick, an imposing 6-foot-10, 220-pound center.
Swanwick came into Saturday’s division championship game at the Los Angeles Sports Arena averaging 20.7 points and 13.8 rebounds per game. Stop Swanwick and chances are you win, right?
Well, not quite. Corona del Mar limited Swanwick to nine points, but Trabuco Hills’ perimeter shooting carried the Mustangs to a 59-55 victory in front of 6,635 fans.
Trabuco Hills (22-6) won its second major sport title within four months by making six of eight three-point shots and hitting nine of 13 free throws in the fourth quarter. The Mustangs won the Division VIII football title last fall.
Trabuco Hills’ four-guard offense more than made up for Swanwick’s scoring deficiency. Chad Poulos scored 14 points, including four free throws in the final 48 seconds that sealed the victory.
Randy Kriech led all scorers with 19 points, including three three-point shots. Luis Arenado contributed eight points and Tim Manning added seven points.
“We were probably a little too concerned with Swanwick,” said Paul Orris, Corona del Mar’s coach. “The perimeter players are the guys who beat us.”
Corona del Mar, the third-place team in the Sea View League, finished 19-10. The Sea Kings had upset El Dorado, Rolling Hills and Morningside to reach the title game, where a 39% shooting performance did them in.
Center Brian Spratt, who had averaged 20.3 points in four previous playoff games, had only six points going into the final quarter but finished with a team-high 14. Teammate Matt Herrington added 12 points and reserve Jeff Jackson had 10.
“We have nothing to hang our heads about,” Orris said. “Just to reach the finals in the toughest division in the playoffs as a third-place team was quite an accomplishment.”
Trabuco Hills took control in the second quarter, opening a 25-14 lead and Corona del Mar never recovered. Manning’s three-point shot with 6:35 remaining pushed the Mustangs ahead, 20-12, but Corona del Mar managed to trim the lead to 27-26 moments before intermission.
But just when it appeared the momentum was shifting to the Sea Kings, Kriech hit a three-pointer at the buzzer to move Trabuco Hills ahead, 30-26.
“I guess this proves we’re not a one-man team,” said Rainer Wulf, the Trabuco Hills coach. “No, I wasn’t concerned that Rick wasn’t scoring because I have so much confidence in my perimeter players.”
Swanwick didn’t score his first field goal until 7:48 remained in the third quarter, but said he wasn’t concerned with scoring points, just winning the game.
“I expected double coverage, I’ve gotten used to it all season,” he said. “It only means somebody else is open for a shot if I’m double covered.”
Swanwick attempted only six shots and also struggled at the free throw line. He missed the front ends of two one-and-ones with the game on the line in the fourth quarter, but Trabuco Hills turned around and scored each time he missed.
First, Poulos squeezed through Corona del Mar’s front line to rebound and score with 4:34 remaining, giving the Mustangs a 53-46 advantage. Then Herrington turned the ball over after Swanwick’s miss, which ultimately lead to two more attempts by Swanwick and he made one.
“The two biggest plays of the game,” Orris said. “There was an eight-point switch on those free throws. We didn’t expose some subtle situations and that’s why we lost by four points.”
Afterward, Wulf reflected upon the season and pointed to two losses in the Canyon tournament during winter vacation as the turning point in the season.
“That was a nice slap in the face,” he said. “We made some adjustments on our fast break after that and then won three straight games before entering our league.
“I knew last summer that we could be here. I’m not saying that I predicted it, but I felt we had the talent to get here.”