It took more than 3 1/2 minutes to score their first basket, but there was no stopping the Simi Valley High Pioneers once they got untracked in a Southern Section Division I-AA quarterfinal boys’ basketball game against Bellflower at Gahr High on Friday night.
Simi Valley, the No. 4-seeded team in the division, defeated No. 5 Bellflower, 73-56, to set up a semifinal showdown against No. 1 Artesia at a site to be determined by a coin flip this morning.
“I didn’t expect a blowout,” Simi Valley center Rafael Berumen said. “I figured it was going to be a close game.”
It wasn’t because Simi Valley (25-5) took advantage of its superior size to shoot 60.4% (29 of 48) from the field, including 66.7% (24 of 36) in the last three quarters.
Berumen, a 6-foot-9 junior, had 18 points, 17 rebounds and seven assists.
Brett Michel had 21 points and eight rebounds and fellow sophomore Branduinn Fullove had 19 points and seven assists for Simi Valley, which advanced to the semifinals of the Southern Section playoffs for the first time in five years.
“We’re taking our game to a different level right now,” Berumen said. “We’re in the [Southern Section] playoffs now.”
Simi Valley Coach Dean Bradshaw agreed.
“We’re pleased to be playing the way we are,” Bradshaw said. “This is the one. This is the season. You play for this part of the season.”
Bellflower (23-6) had defeated Peninsula, 77-57, and Diamond Bar, 71-69 in overtime, in the first two rounds of the playoffs, but the Buccaneers never hit their stride against Simi Valley.
They fell behind, 7-0, after the first six minutes and trailed, 13-6, at the end of the first quarter. And then Simi Valley got hot.
The Pioneers hit six of their first nine shots in the second quarter to take a 29-9 lead with 3:24 left in the half.
Berumen and Michel each had a two- and three-point basket during the 16-3 run while Fullove had a three-point play.
“I thought our spacing was really good,” Bradshaw said. “We did that well and we shot well. When you do that it makes things a lot easier.”
After leading, 35-17, at halftime, Simi Valley took a 54-33 lead at the end of the third quarter by making seven of 10 shots in the period.
The Pioneers followed by hitting their first five shots of the fourth quarter to take a 65-36 lead with four minutes left.
The 6-4 Fullove scored Simi Valley’s first nine points of the quarter on four-of-four shooting.
Senior Ian Boys had seven points for the Pioneers, who have won four consecutive games after losing to Newbury Park and Agoura in Marmonte League play.
Senior Robert Scott, a 5-7 point guard, had 16 points for Bellflower and 6-6 senior forward Cedric Lusk had 14, but the Bucaneers made only 22 of 61 shots.
“We’re pleased to be able to play Artesia,” Bradshaw said. “They’re a very good team, but we’ve got the type of ball club that can beat anyone on a given day.”