A handful of seconds remained in the third quarter, and guard Kyle Armstrong took his stance to try to increase host Torrey Pines’ lead over Artesia in the first round of the Division II Southern California boys’ basketball playoffs Tuesday night.
He shot. Klank.
Artesia’s Deandre Austin grabbed the rebound. Armstrong raced at Austin, knocked the ball away and into the hands of Torrey Pines’ center Kevin Flanagan. Flanagan shot.
Bounce. Bounce. Boom. Two points. And the buzzer.
The ball, everything and everybody did Torrey Pines a good turn in its 62-51 victory. The Falcons (32-1)--who will play host to Dominguez, a 78-37 winner over Porterville Monache Tuesday, in Thursday’s semifinals--had few worries from the start. Artesia (21-7) had many.
“I think that was just an example of team unity,” said Flanagan of his last-second basket in the third quarter. “I think it’s kind of unfortunate they rely on two really good athletes. Our whole team was fighting. Our whole team was scrapping.”
While Torrey Pines scrapped, Artesia’s Ed O’Bannon hacked. Or so said the referees. Artesia Coach Wayne Merino wasn’t sure O’Bannon, a junior who was a preseason Parade All-American, should have had to skip gingerly around the court through most of the second half. O’Bannon picked up his fourth foul with 4:42 remaining in the third quarter.
“It threw our whole rhythm off,” Merino said. “It really wasn’t fair, but that’s the way it goes. Anytime you’re going out of your area, you’ve got to deal with that.”
That and Darren Cox. Cox, Torrey Pines’ transfer point guard from Las Vegas, refused to miss in the first half. He took the pressure off Flanagan and forward Courtie Miller, who were packed in early by a sagging Artesia defense.
Cox popped in 10 points in the first quarter and had 16 by halftime, four on three-pointers.
“Darren was just unconscious,” Miller said.
“Every night it’s somebody different,” Torrey Pines Coach John Farrell said. “This is a great group.”
Cox couldn’t pinpoint why he was so hot. He had his usual pregame meal of stew. He didn’t do anything different in warmups. He just felt good. No pressure.
“I thought we were all relaxed from the start,” said Cox, who finished with a team-high 22 points. “The first half they were falling off so (the outside shot) was open.”
Torrey Pines was down by as much as six early. Cox tied the score with a three-pointer with 2:49 remaining in the first quarter and seconds later gave the Falcons the lead with a perfect jump shot.
O’Bannon, who finished with a game-high 23 points, stirred the sellout crowd with a reverse dunk in the second quarter to tie the game at 26. Then Torrey Pines regained the lead and was never again headed.
The Falcons led 39-28 at halftime and 53-40 at the conclusion of the third quarter. Artesia crawled back slightly in the fourth quarter but was unable to come closer than eight.