Pacifica Christian Orange County drops another nail-biter

Twice in a 20-hour span, the last shot decided Pacifica Christian Orange County High’s fate. Each time the basket did not go the Tritons’ way.

The Tritons lost a nail-biter at home for the second time in as many days. Isaiah Seward missed a desperation three-pointer at the buzzer on Thursday, and Pacifica Christian lost 55-52 to Orangewood Academy in a San Joaquin League boys’ basketball game.

The night before, Capistrano Valley Christian beat the Tritons on a last-second shot. The setbacks dropped Pacifica Christian to 1-3 in league.

“Exhausted,” Tritons coach Jeff Berokoff said when asked how his team felt after having to play on consecutive days. “We finished our game at 8:30 [on Wednesday] night [and we played at 3:10 p.m. on Thursday]. Playing two league games back-to-back, which is unheard of, [is tough]. I’m so proud of these guys. We played five guys last night and we played six today.”

Dominick Harris was one of the six who saw time on Thursday, and the standout point guard rallied the Tritons late. The sophomore had five of his game-high 26 points in the final 32 seconds.

Harris’ three-pointer with nine seconds to go cut the deficit to three. The Tritons called a timeout to figure out how to get the ball back. And they got it back with pressure defense, coming up with a steal, but Seward was way behind the arc when he got the ball. Seward launched a three in the waning seconds, and it was no good.

Orangewood won its first league game. The program’s first two league games have gone down to the wire, as it lost at Capistrano Valley Christian 59-57 in overtime on Jan. 11.

“It was good for us to finish a game,” said Orangewood coach Leslie Aragon, whose top assistant is Larry Hirst, who coached the Newport Harbor boys’ basketball team for 16 seasons. “[The Tritons are] a really good team. This is a really good win for us. They’re one of the best teams we’ve played all year. We knew they were going to fight all the way to the end.”

Pacifica Christian (7-14 overall), ranked No. 9 in the CIF Southern Section Division 5AAA poll, had to battle its way back in it. The Spartans built a 25-12 lead by producing 13 of the first 15 points in the second quarter.

Playing two league games back-to-back, which is unheard of, [is tough].

Pacifica Christian Orange County coach Jeff Berokoff

Uriel Bautista, who finished with 19 points, 17 rebounds and two blocked shots, and Javier Simpkins led the way during the run. Bautista scored two baskets in the paint, and Simpkins knocked down a three-pointer and a jumper.

Simpkins, who had 20 points, guarded the 6-foot-3 Harris, who is being courted by many NCAA Division I programs. Simpkins made Harris work for his points. Harris hit 11 of 25 shots, including two three-pointers.

“Javier is a great two-way player,” Aragon said. “He’s a smart player. He always guards the best player on the other team. He’s up for the challenge every night. His fundamentals defensively maybe slowed [Harris] down a little bit. Harris still had a great game.”

Harris recorded half of his team’s points against Orangewood (10-8, 1-1 in league), No. 16 in Division 4A. Primo Belfiore added nine points and Josh Griffith had eight points and seven rebounds.

Foul trouble plagued Griffith, who picked up his second foul at the 4:51 mark in the opening quarter. Griffith, a 6-10 center, exited and Bautista, a 6-5, 235-pounder, had his way inside. The senior scored 15 first-half points on six-of-11 shooting.

“They’re just strong,” said Berokoff, adding that Bautista and Nate Moore are like defensive ends. “They outrebounded us [33-23]. We did the best job we could trying to keep them off the boards.”

Pacifica Christian Orange County boys' basketball coach Jeffrey Berokoff
Pacifica Christian Orange County coach Jeffrey Berokoff's team fell to 1-3 in the San Joaquin League on Thursday. Scott Smeltzer / Staff Photographer

Orangewood Academy 55, Pacifica Christian Orange County 52


Orangewood Academy 12 – 17 – 13 – 13 — 55

Pacifica Christian Orange County 10 – 13 – 11 – 18— 52

OW – Simpkins 20, Bautista 19, Moore 8, Bopp 6, Baraizo 2.

3-pt. goals – Simpkins 2.

Fouled out – None.

Technicals – None.

PC – Harris 26, Belfiore 9, Griffith 8, Sims 5, I. Seward 4.

3-pt. goals – Harris 2, Belfiore 1.

Fouled out – Griffith.

Technicals – None.

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