The prospect of deja - disaster in the air, not to mention on the court, the Morningside High School boys’ basketball team did what it could not do two weeks ago: play under control.
Morningside defeated Corona del Mar, 53-46, in the Southern California Regional Division III semifinals Thursday at Corona del Mar, avenging a loss to the Sea Kings two weeks ago in the Southern Section 3-A playoffs.
“Revenge is sweet,” said Ron Randle, Morningside’s co-coach. “We’ve never (this season) lost to a team twice in a row. I told them don’t let this be the first.”
All the elements were there for a repeat. Corona del Mar defeated Morningside, 57-56, in overtime in the semifinals. Corona del Mar did it after trailing by four points with 2 minutes left in the game. But Morningside fouled Corona del Mar back into contention.
Thursday, Morningside led, 48-44, with 2 minutes remaining. With 1:52 left, Morningside’s Chris Vance was called for an offensive foul which sent Corona del Mar’s Chris Pliha to the free-throw line.
Pliha, who had eight points in the game, missed the front end of the one-and-one, but Morningside was called for a lane violation giving Pliha another chance. He made both and Corona del Mar trailed, 46-44.
On its ensuing possession, Morningside appeared content to hold the ball when guard Kenny Jones drove to the baseline and made a short jump shot. A Corona del Mar miss was followed by another shot by Jones, which missed, but Vance rebounded, made a layup and was fouled.
Vance, who had 12 points, nine in the second half, made the free throw to put Morningside up, 53-46, with less than 35 seconds remaining.
“When Kenny made that shot I was convinced we were going to win,” Randle said. “We didn’t attack in the first game. We didn’t make the same mistake twice. Down the stretch we played smart and aggressive.”
Morningside led, 11-8, with five seconds left in the first quarter on Arthur Savage’s short jump shot, but Corona del Mar guard Matt Cwiertnia drove the length of the court, and past the entire Morningside team to score at the buzzer to draw Corona del Mar to 11-10.
Corona del Mar took a 15-13 led early in the second quarter on Jeff Clark’s three-point shot, but Morningside regained the lead at 23-22 when Don Sanders made a layup with 6 seconds left in the first half.
Corona del Mar did have a chance to put some distance between it and Morningside through free throws, but it made only two of eight foul shots in the last 2 minutes of the first half.
“We just missed too many free throws in the first half,” said Paul Orris, Corona del Mar coach. “We’ve got to make those shots. If we do, we’ve got about a four- or five-point lead going into the half.”
Corona del Mar did manage to rally, and, in fact, held a five-point at 34-29, with 1:47 left in the third quarter. But Morningside outscored Corona del Mar, 10-2, in that last minute and a half, tying the score at 36-36 on Eddie Scott’s turn-around jump shot and taking a 39-36 lead on Jon Madison’s three-point shot at the buzzer.
Corona del Mar struck back fast. Cwiertnia made a three-point shot just 5 seconds into the fourth quarter to tie the score, 39-39.
Morningside went ahead for good at 40-39 on Arthur Savage’s free throw.