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Los Alamitos Gets Physical, Beats El Toro

TIMES STAFF WRITER

The bodies flew during Los Alamitos’ 67-60 victory over El Toro in the first round of the Southern Section Division I-A boys’ basketball playoffs Friday at Los Alamitos.

The mood and language seemed better suited to a football game, which really wasn’t too surprising because three of El Toro’s best players play football.

Not that Los Alamitos didn’t dish it out--it did. But the game’s physical nature seemed to hurt Los Alamitos more than El Toro.

It left Los Alamitos center Geoff Graham, his backup Dan Schluntz and forward Jason Cunningham in foul trouble for much of the game. And that left the Griffins nearly defenseless against Jeremy Hogue, El Toro’s burly center.

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“From our standpoint, maybe that was their game plan--to man-handle us inside,” Los Alamitos Coach Steve Brooks said. “We did a poor job of defending the post. They were hurting us inside. They did a good job.”

In the end, Los Alamitos won the game at the free-throw line. Point guard Bryan Hakala made eight of 10 free throws in the final 2 minutes 2 seconds, protecting an 11-point lead.

“He’s been clutch for us all year,” Brooks said. “I’m really comfortable having him with the ball at the end of a game. He’s been a mainstay for us.”

Hakala had 25 points and Keith Boldon added 16.

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Los Alamitos (19-7) faces Hart, a 95-73 winner over Buena, in the second round Tuesday. El Toro, the fourth-place finisher in the South Coast League, ended its season 13-13.

Early in the fourth quarter, Los Alamitos led, 55-44. It had been a long, difficult struggle to open that margin.

From the start, the Griffins were caught up in El Toro’s physical style. Hogue had nine of the Chargers’ first 14 points. He had little difficulty working free for easy shots. And when he didn’t score, the Griffins usually hacked him, sending him to the line.

Soon the fouls began to add up.

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Graham picked up his third foul just before the end of the first quarter. Schluntz got his fourth three minutes into the third quarter. Cunningham picked up his third midway through the third quarter.

El Toro wasn’t in much better shape. Rob Johnson picked up his fourth foul three minutes into the third quarter. Forward Ken Koppelman got his third foul a moment later.

Worse, Johnson was cold from the field, missing 18 of 23 shots. Hogue, Johnson’s future USC football teammate, had only one free throw in the final quarter.


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