There's no doubt about the darling of the playoffs. El Toro, after its victories last week over Capistrano Valley and top-seeded Crescenta Valley, has found itself in the improbable position of playing in tonight's Division I-AA semifinal against Long Beach Wilson (23-3).
Here's the first rule for watching the Chargers (27-2): don't leave early.
The Chargers have rallied in all three of their playoff games. They trailed by eight at halftime, then beat Rowland Heights Rowland, 58-52; they trailed by 16 in the third quarter, and nine in the final minute, before upsetting Capistrano Valley in double overtime, 78-68; and they overcame a 14-point third-quarter deficit to overtake Crescenta Valley with two seconds left, 63-61.
Crescenta Valley's primary mistake was shifting from a triangle-and-two defense on Giuliana and Gioconda Mendiola to straight man-to-man.
"It wasn't something I had prepared for that game; they're so good, they don't need to run any junk defenses," El Toro Coach Vincent Avitable said. "When they went man, it was all set; [Giuliana Mendiola] was running off screens and feeding the post. Our post players were six for six on layups [after the switch in defenses]."
Center Suzanne Guy scored 10 points in the fourth, and Amy Everett scored the winning basket with two seconds remaining. And Mendiola, who scored nine points in the final minute--and an another 10 in two overtimes--against Capistrano Valley, scored 14 of her 21 points in the fourth quarter.
In Division I-A, San Clemente (26-4) goes for its first final appearance tonight at Capistrano Valley when it plays host to Moreno Valley (26-3).
San Clemente has had four different leading scorers over the last five games: Andrea Jacobs, Kelley Kruger, Colleen Turnbull and Debby Caine.
The winner of that game will face Buena (26-2) or Marina (25-4), who play at Westminster High. Buena has been to the finals the last eight years, winning four of the last five.
Wednesday, the Southern Section office will release dates and times for the championship games, to be played at the Pyramid in Long Beach. Nine-time defending champion Brea (28-1) plays third-seeded Troy (28-2) in Division II-AA, matching sisters Katie Hardeman of Brea against Heidi Hardeman of Troy.
Also playing for its first title are second-seeded Calvary Chapel (24-5), which plays top-seeded Playa del Rey St. Bernard (24-4) in Division IV-AA, and Olympic League foes Brethren Christian (18-10) against second-seeded Cerritos Valley Christian 23-6) in Division IV-A.