After watching Tobie Priest and Marlon Watson combine for 32 of Savanna's 37 first-half points, El Modena Coach Tim Tivenan knew his defense needed an overhaul.
So the Vanguards switched to a triangle-and-two defense to slow down Savanna's high-scoring duo, and El Modena rallied from a 10-point deficit to win, 53-48, in the championship semifinals of the Carl's Jr. Holiday Classic at Century High School Friday night in Santa Ana.
Priest, who scored 20 of his game-high 25 points in the first half, pulled up for a 15-foot jumper to finish a fast break to give the Rebels a 33-23 lead with 1 minute 46 seconds remaining in the second quarter.
"We had to change something defensively at halftime," Tivenan said. "But normally I don't like to do things like playing a defense which we haven't even practiced."
El Modena (8-3) held Priest and Watson, who finished with 15 points and nine rebounds, to six shots in the second half.
"We decided if we ever saw a defense like that, we would attack it like a man-to-man," Haskell said. "If we hit some of those open shots down the stretch, we look great."
Aside from Watson and Priest, the rest of the Savanna squad made only two of 12 shots in the second half.
Savanna's last lead was 43-42 with 4 minutes 38 seconds remaining.
El Modena center Aaron Aguilera then blocked a shot, came down to the offensive end and also scored in the low post to give the Vanguards the lead for good, 44-43, with 3:50 remaining.
Aguilera finished with a team-high 20 points and 10 rebounds.
In the other semifinal game:
St. Paul 48, Buena Park 41--Brandon Ertle scored 20 points, including six three-pointers, for St. Paul (8-2). St. Paul led by 11 points at halftime, but Buena Park rallied to draw within two, 30-28, after Bryan Baylor hit a three-pointer to open the fourth quarter.
Ertle answered with two three-pointers of his own, and St. Paul was never threatened in the final minutes. Gavin Molinar led Buena Park with 13 points.
St. Paul meets El Modena in the championship game at 8:15 tonight.
In the consolation-round game:
Brethren Christian 73, Los Amigos 62--Chiron Hart scored a game-high 19 points for Brethren Christian (8-1). Tim Osborn scored 17 and Chris Fry had 14 points and a team-high 13 rebounds for Brethren Christian.