Simi Valley High's dream of a Southern Section Division I-AA boys' basketball championship was alive at halftime of Tuesday night's semifinal against Artesia at Long Beach City College, but it died swiftly in the third quarter.
That was when No. 1-seeded Artesia went on a 12-1 run en route to a 70-45 victory over No. 4 Simi Valley.
"They were relentless," Simi Valley Coach Dean Bradshaw said of Artesia. "They're a real good team. We're a good team, but tonight they made us look like we weren't so good."
Simi Valley (25-6) trailed, 34-25, at halftime, but the game got out of hand in the third quarter when Artesia hit five of its first six shots to take a 46-26 lead with 4:58 left in the quarter.
The Pioneers turned the ball over on their first three possessions of the third quarter, missed both of their shots and made one of two free throws.
"We didn't feel like we had a height advantage on them," Artesia Coach Wayne Merino said. "We felt like we had to have a great defensive effort and we did. We felt like we had to pressure their guards and we were able to do that."
Artesia (29-1) started a front line that went 6 feet 7, 6-7 and 6-6 and had subs that were 6-9 and 6-6, but it was quickness that helped it outrebound Simi Valley, 37-25.
Artesia also forced Simi Valley to commit 19 turnovers, including six in the third quarter.
"We felt like we had an athletic quickness advantage on them," Merino said. "And that helped us defensively. . . . That is about as well as we've played this year defensively. Offensively, we had our moments, but we can play better than we did."
Artesia, which will play No. 2 Long Beach Poly in the I-AA title game at the Arrowhead Pond of Anaheim on Saturday, made 14 of 42 shots in the first half, yet led because of a 26-11 rebounding advantage.
Simi Valley made nine of 20 shots in the first 16 minutes, but went eight of 24 in the second half.
Rafael Berumen, a 6-9 junior, and Branduinn Fullove, a 6-4 sophomore, each scored 12 points for Simi Valley. Brett Michel, a 6-6 sophomore, had 10 points.
Fullove had eight points in the first half and Michel had seven, but Simi Valley's inability to keep Artesia off the boards ultimately led to its demise.
"The bottom line was that we had to keep them off boards and we were unable to do that," Michel said. "That was pretty much it."
Jamal O'Quinn, a 6-7 senior, scored 16 points for Artesia and 6-9 freshman Jack Martinez and 6-1 senior James Murdock each had 14.
Jason Kapono, a 6-7 forward who is regarded as one of the top juniors in the state, scored 12 points for Artesia while playing with the flu and a 101-degree fever.
Not that it seemed to matter.
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SOUTHERN SECTION SEMIFINALS
Artesia 70, Simi Valley 45
Long Beach Poly 84, Etiwanda 71
Pacific 70, Mater Dei 69
Glendora 77, J.W. North 57
Dominguez 82, Dos Pueblos 48
Redondo Union 55, Muir 53
Santa Clara 58, Chadwick 53
Pacific Hills 83, Montclair Prep 82 (3 OT)
Long Beach Wilson 62, El Toro 53
Peninsula 48, Ayala 38
San Clemente 65, Moreno Valley 59
Marina 60, Buena 39
Western Christian 61, Pilgrim 32
Chadwick vs. Lone Pine, today at South Torrance