In a tortoise-and-hare matchup as far as discipline and approach, the team with the hard-shelled defense and deliberate pace once again took home the top prize Saturday night.
Oxnard Santa Clara High, the two-time defending state Division IV champion, defeated Lincoln, 68-55, in the Southern California Regional final in front of 1,000 at Cal State Dominguez Hills.
With the victory, Santa Clara, deliberate in motion but deceivingly quick, advanced to its third state title game Friday in Oakland against the Northern California Regional winner.
The Saints, whose only losses are to powerhouses Mater Dei, Santa Barbara, San Francisco Riordon and Las Vegas Bishop Gorman, improved to 28-4. Lincoln, the San Diego Section champion, finished 21-10.
Four of the five Saints that scored in the game finished in double figures. Isaiah Mustafa had 16, Chris Cole 16, Art Barron 15 and Stevie Amar 12. All four are juniors. The lone senior starter, Anthony Maestas, had nine.
Lincoln, which also will have most of its team back next year, was led by John Akridge with 13.
The problem, said Lincoln Coach Ron Loneski, was too much individual play.
"I told them, 'You're playing against a very, very good team, and you need to play together as a team,' " Loneski said. "We didn't do that. Earlier we did, but . . ."
Santa Clara performed the double duty of playing basketball and teaching a clinic in the first quarter, especially in the final 3:43.
Trailing 12-8, the Saints went on a 15-3 run to the end the quarter leading, 23-15. Nine points came in a 50 second span with Barron getting a three-pointer, three steals, a layup and an assist. Mustafa had the other two baskets, one off a missed layup by Barron.
The Saints could do little wrong.
Santa Clara did not get its first foul until 7:52 of the second quarter and did not turn the ball over until 6:22. Lincoln, meanwhile, had eight turnovers in the first quarter and 13 by halftime. Santa Clara, which also made four of four free throws and shot 50%, had only four turnovers in the first half.
Santa Clara assumed its biggest lead of the half, 33-20, with 3:30 left, but Lincoln, which made eight of 10 free throws in the second quarter, tightened it to 10, 39-29, by the intermission.
Archie Robinson, who made all six of his three-point attempts in Thursday's 107-89 semifinal victory over Santa Maria St. Joseph's, made his first attempt and had a team-high nine points in the first half. Akridge had two three-pointers and eight points.
Lincoln trailed by 10 five times in the second half. It managed to pull within six, 45-39, in the third quarter and seven, 61-54, with 3:39 left in the game. By 2:29, Santa Clara's lead was back to 11.