A free throw by reserve guard Weston Johnson with 3 seconds left in overtime gave Corona del Mar High School a 57-56 victory over Morningside in the Southern Section 3-A semifinals two weeks ago. At the time, it meant a trip to the final for Corona del Mar and a bitter end to Morningside’s season.
“A very tough moment,” said Carl Franklin, Morningside’s coach. “We just tried to get them (his players) through that moment. They took it very hard.”
Franklin asked the Southern Section office whether there was a possibility that his team--23-5 at the time--might get an at-large bid for the Southern California Regionals. He was told no, only finalists would get bids.
But days later came a call from Dean Crowley, Southern Section associate commissioner, who began by saying, “Carl, you’re not going to believe this . . . “
Believe it or not, Morningside was in the regionals. Tuesday, it beat No. 1 seeded San Diego Lincoln, 81-67. Tonight, it gets a second chance at Corona del Mar (7:30, Corona del Mar High) in the Division III regional semifinals.
What might have helped Morningside’s cause was that the L.A. City Section didn’t have a team to put in Division III, clearing a spot for Morningside (which is in the Southern Section) to get the at-large bid.
“I think they wanted to avoid having byes in the first round,” Franklin said. “I just think it’s a miracle.”
Morningside’s first game against Corona del Mar was more of a nightmare. Morningside, the 3-A’s fourth-seeded team, held a four-point lead with less than 2 minutes remaining. But Jeff Jackson’s free throw and Matt Cwiertnia’s steal, layup and free throw tied the score at 49.
Fouls hampered Morningside throughout. It was called for 30 fouls and three players--including starters Jeff Crow and Chris Vance--fouled out. Corona del Mar shot 40 free throws, making five of six in overtime.
The loss ended Morningside’s 17-game winning streak. Corona del Mar went on to the 3-A final where it lost to Trabuco Hills, 59-55.
Corona del Mar had an easy time in its first-round game of the regionals, defeating Tulare Western, 80-47, at Corona del Mar.
Paul Orris, Corona del Mar’s coach, called it a “fun game,” with 13 of his 14 players scoring. But he also realized that the lack of competition didn’t do a lot to prepare his team for tonight.
“I wish they (Tulare Western) had been a little better,” Orris said after Tuesday’s game. “The competition Thursday will be miles above this.”
And Morningside figures to be miles high at getting another shot at Corona del Mar.
“We’re really looking forward to this,” Franklin said.
Orris wasn’t nearly as enthusiastic.
“I won’t be real excited to play them again,” he said.
One reason is Morningside’s height advantage with a front line of Eddie Scott (6-feet-6)--cousin of Laker guard Byron Scott--Chris Vance (6-7) and Arthur Savage (6-6). To take advantage of his size, Franklin uses a double low post offense.
Scott averages 15 points and six rebounds. Vance and Savage each average nine rebounds.
Corona del Mar’s big man, 6-5 Brian Spratt, has been its mainstay through the playoffs. Spratt, who had 17 points Tuesday, is averaging 19 in the playoffs. Spratt had 21 points against Morningside.
In another Division III game:
Lemoore (21-5) vs. Trabuco Hills (23-6) at El Toro High (7:30)--Trabuco Hills center Rick Swanwick just seems to get better. Tuesday, in an 87-60 victory over San Diego Clairemont, Swanwick had a career-high 32 points and 24 rebounds. He scored 15 in the third quarter. The 6-10 Swanwick is attracting all kinds of attention. Rainer Wulf, Trabuco Hills coach, said he spotted scouts from UC San Diego, UNC-Charlotte and UC Irvine at Tuesday’s game. Lemoore has a decent center of its own in 6-5 Dennis Hubanks, who averages 16 points and 11 rebounds. But Lemoore, which defeated San Luis Obispo, 85-69, in the first round, is a run-and-gun team that’s led by 5-9 guard Tommy Jones, who averages 17 points.
In Division IV:
Whittier Christian (23-6) vs. Easton Washington Union (24-5) at Fresno Community College (7:30)--The assignment for Whittier Christian is clear but far from simple: It must stop forward Carl Ray Harris. Harris, who scored 42 points in Washington Union’s 79-71 victory over Banning on Tuesday, averages 26 points. He has set the Central Section single-season scoring record with 795 points. That broke former Cal State Long Beach star Cliff Pondexter’s record of 782 set during the 1972-73 season at San Joaquin Memorial.
Whittier Christian center Scott Ferguson (6-7), who averaged 13 points during the regular season, has raised his game during the playoffs, averaging 19. Playing on a bad ankle Tuesday, Ferguson had 18, eight in the fourth quarter, as Whittier Christian beat San Diego Coronado, 69-58.
Orange Lutheran (25-4) vs. Santa Clara (24-3) at Ventura College at 8:30--Another rematch, this of the 2-A final. But that’s something the people at Orange Lutheran would like to forget. Santa Clara trounced Orange Lutheran, 78-54, in the title game. It was the lowest scoring output all season for Orange Lutheran, which averaged 84 points in the regular season. Santa Clara, the top-seeded team in Division IV, does that to a lot of teams. It won its three 2-A playoff games by an average of 21 points.
Santa Clara has one of the state’s top juniors in 6-5 forward Shon Tarver (22 points a game), whom Santa Clara Coach Lou Cvijanovich compares to former Laker Jamaal Wilkes when Wilkes played at Santa Barbara High. Orange Lutheran will hope to get more production out of center Pat Bagatourian, who had only 13 points against Santa Clara. Bagatourian (6-3) averaged 20 during the regular season. Forward Daryl Cole leads Orange Lutheran in scoring, averaging 21 points.