LOS ANGELES — The Renaissance Academy boys' basketball team finally found an opponent that could hang with it in the playoffs on Saturday night — for all of one quarter, at least.
Winners of their first three CIF Southern Section Division 6 playoff games by an average margin of 64 points, the top-seeded Wildcats pulled away from host fourth-seeded L.A. Adventist Academy in the second quarter of the semifinal contest, leaving the Eagles as just the latest foe steamrolled, 69-44, on Renaissance's rampage to its first CIF title appearance since 2007.
"We've had a lot of journeys, a lot of injuries, a lot of things happen," Renaissance Coach Sid Cooke said of the program's road back to the title game, where it will meet California Lutheran at a date and site to be determined. "Things didn't go our way for a couple years, but this group stuck together and I'm really proud for them."
The Wildcats (23-6) got 24 points and five rebounds from senior guard and co-captain Vince De Guzman to go with 18 points and nine rebounds from senior center Jessy Cantinol, as most of the Wildcats starters were able to take the fourth quarter off with the lead rising as high as 27 points.
De Guzman made back-to-back three-pointers to open the game, hit five of his first six shots en route to a nine-for-12 night and scored 13 points in the second quarter to help the Wildcats turn a three-point lead into a 38-25 halftime advantage that would never again dip below double-digits.
"I felt good tonight, I had a good night's sleep and the crowd got me hyped up," De Guzman said. "They're a good team, they fight the whole game. They made it to the semis for a reason."
L.A. Adventist (16-9) flashed the athleticism and quick scoring ability that threatened to make it a tougher climb for the Wildcats and for one quarter, it was. Troy Fontanilla put Renaissance up, 8-2, on a fast-break assist from De Guzman at the 6:00 mark, but the Eagles stormed back to within 12-10 at the midpoint after getting four points on one possession and then scored on the heels of Cantinol's three-point play with 55 seconds left to trim the deficit to 21-18 going into the second quarter.
Cantinol had 11 points in the first quarter, but went cold, and scoreless, in the second, leaving De Guzman to shoulder the scoring load. He was more than up to the task, scoring on a putback before taking one to the rack for a layup at the 5:23 mark for a 29-21 lead.
"He's been playing great for us," Cooke said. "He's the heart and soul of our team, him and Jessy. We always believe Vince is going to get 20 points and he'll get his assists and rebounds."
After L.A. Adventist made a small run, Gerrick Uneau scored on a three-footer to put the Wildcats back up by six before another burst from De Guzman, who scored on consecutive layups before closing out the first half with a corner three-pointer.
Cantinol bounced back with seven third-quarter points, including a three-pointer to give the Wildcats a 50-33 lead with 2:38 left before throwing down a blistering dunk off a Renaissance steal that took all the air out of the Eagles with 2:30 to go in the third.
"He had to settle down because they were throwing double teams at him," Cooke said of Cantinol. "We ran some plays for him, but he did a good job once he settled down."