The playoffs got started for the Estancia and Tarbut V’Torah high school boys’ basketball teams on Wednesday night. Then it stopped and started again. Then stopped again as an extra layer of nerves added to the start of the teams’ playoff runs.
The shot clock malfunctioned at Estancia for the first four minutes of the game until a combination of a smartphone’s stopwatch monitored by the public address announcer played the role of the shot clock.
“There was no flow,” Estancia coach Xavier Castellano said. “We were OK. Once we were able to get into our tempo, I knew we would be OK.”
The early stoppages didn’t slow down Estancia for long.
Behind senior Jake Covey’s 25 points, the No. 2-seeded Eagles cruised past Tarbut V’Torah 74-33 to advance to the second round of the CIF Southern Section Division 5AA playoffs and increase their win streak to 18 games.
The playoff win marks Estancia’s first since the 2013-14 season, and it’s also Castellano’s first playoff victory during his six seasons in charge of the program.
“It’s awesome for the program,” said Castellano, a 1998 Estancia graduate. “It’s awesome for the kids and awesome for the school. It’s a good feeling.”
The Eagles (26-3) will have to travel 88 miles for their second-round game. Estancia will next play at Victorville Excelsior Charter (19-7) on Friday. Cross Valley League champion Excelsior Charter defeated El Monte Mountain View 65-47 in the first round.
Estancia’s full-court press caused panic and turnovers for the Lions. The Eagles’ defense made the biggest difference with players like Franky DeBrum making steals that turned into points the other direction.
“I used to play really bad [defense] until [the coaching staff] came in and they fixed it,” DeBrum said. “Now I’m on my toes, I’m faster and I’m making steals. Defense wins games.”
DeBrum isn’t lying as the Eagles haven’t lost since suffering a 48-45 setback to Santiago on Dec. 13. Estancia is now three wins away from tying the program’s single-season record of 29, set by the 1990-91 team.
Covey hit layups, crashed the glass for rebounds — and got them most of the time — and made steals in transition on his way to a 25-point performance with 12 coming in the third quarter. Covey earned a rousing ovation as he checked out of the game at the start of the fourth quarter.
“Jake is a big hero for us,” DeBrum said. “I call him a hero because 25 points today, I don’t know how many rebounds, but I bet like 30 or something like that.”
Tarbut V’Torah (6-6) didn’t go down quietly in the first half. Ilan Berdy, Braden Terner and David Groner were bright spots for the Lions, scoring all of Tarbut V’Torah’s first-half points as they went into halftime down 31-18. But they couldn’t break down the physical and organized Eagles after the intermission.
“Give them credit, they played a great first half,” Castellano said. “We were able to put our style in and run away with it.”
Estancia, which went unbeaten in the 10-game Orange Coast League, imposed its quick offense and flexed its depth.
With Covey’s big third quarter and Brandon Pearson scoring eight of his 14 points in the third, Estancia led 62-26 going into the fourth quarter. The Eagles had room to use all 12 of their players who dressed out for the game.
In the fourth quarter, Benjamin Bui, Roberto Castillo and Lewis Tate IV all recorded points in the final quarter, keeping the stands loud as the Eagles hit each basket.
“We’ve been that way all year,” Castellano said. “Guys have gotten hurt and it’s next guy up. Makes for a better atmosphere and a better feeling”
CIF Southern Section Division 5AA playoffs
Estancia 74, Tarbut V’Torah 33
SCORE BY QUARTERS
Tarbut V‘Torah 8 – 10 – 8 — 7 — 33
Estancia 17 – 14 – 31 – 12 — 74
TVT – Berdy 11, Terner 10, D. Groner 8, J. Groner 2, Peddie 2.
3-pt. goals – Berdy 1.
Fouled out – None.
Technicals – None.
E – Covey 25, Pearson 14, Khoury 9, Andres 7, Graham 4, Castillo 4, Tate IV 3, Bui 2, Harry 2, Bishop 2, deBrum 2.
3-pt. goals – Khoury 3, Pearson 2, Andres 1, Tate 1.
Fouled out – None.
Technicals – None.
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