Whittier Christian High School seemed to have other things on its mind for much of its first-round Division IV Southern California Regional boys’ playoff game Tuesday night at La Habra High School.
The Heralds (23-6), still reeling after their emotional victory that clinched the 2-AA championship Saturday, traded leads with Coronado (11-15) and trailed early in the fourth quarter before scoring 13 consecutive points to take a 69-58 victory.
The Heralds will face Fresno Washington-Union in the second round on Thursday.
“Saturday was a pretty emotional game,” Whittier Christian Coach Bob Brown said. “I didn’t really expect us to be on an emotional high. Maybe I didn’t do a good job of motivating them. We won’t be in the playoffs for long if we play like this.”
Foul trouble and a slightly sprained ankle kept Whittier Christian’s Scott Ferguson on the bench for nearly half the game, which kept Coronado close. But Ferguson, a 6-7 center, still managed 18 points, including eight in the decisive fourth quarter.
“I know this was a letdown,” Ferguson said. “We went out there thinking it was going to be a pushover. That’s all we read in the papers. We thought it was true and we played like it.
“We were slow. We didn’t react well and they made their shots. We can’t allow open jumpers like that.”
Whittier Christian trailed, 4-1, early in the game when Ferguson injured his right ankle.
“I came down real hard on somebody’s foot,” said Ferguson, who is expected to play on Thursday. “It rolled all the way over. It really hurt.”
Ferguson sat out the remainder of the quarter as the Heralds took a 20-18 lead behind 12 points by Paul McKinley. McKinley and Coronado’s Jesse MacNeill led the scoring with 23 points each.
Ferguson returned in the second quarter, but the battle continued, as Whittier Christian never led by more than five points, taking a 34-31 lead into halftime.
One minute into the third quarter, Ferguson received his third foul, and was benched for the rest of the quarter.
Coronado took advantage, rallying for a 46-44 lead by the end of the quarter.
The Islanders stayed ahead until Whittier Christian tied the score, 50-50, with 6 minutes left before scoring the next 11 points--seven on free throws--in the next 4 minutes to clinch the victory.