LYNWOOD — Members of the Hoover High boys' basketball team talked about how they played better defense in the second half of their CIF Southern Section Division 3-AA playoff game Wednesday night.
The Tornadoes had to play better defense to have any chance of advancing because they couldn't have had a worse shooting performance in the first half.
After sinking just five shots in the first half, the Tornadoes rallied at halftime, encouraging each other to step up.
The Tornadoes increased their intensity and played smarter, on both ends of the court.
Hoover limited host Firebaugh to just 16 second-half points, rallying for a 49-46 first-round victory — its first playoff win since Feb. 16, 2008.
Hoover (14-13) will play third-seeded Corona del Mar at 7 p.m. Friday at home.
“We weren't feeling it in the first half,” said Hoover senior Arvin Atakhanian, who led the Tornadoes with a game-high 14 points.
“We were cold, but we started playing defense. We drove it and we hit our free-throw shots.”
Hoover relied on its free-throw shooting to keep the score close. It wasn't hitting many other shots, as it was just five of 23 from the field in the opening half. Thirteen of Hoover's 24 first-half points came at the free throw line.
“We had a terrible offensive game,” Tornadoes Coach Jack Van Patten said. “It was just a horrible shooting game.”
As bad as Hoover, an at-large berth into the playoffs, was from the field, Firebaugh, the third-place team from the Harbor League, simply could not build a large enough lead.
The Falcons (14-14) led by seven early in the third quarter, as they took a 33-26 lead with five minutes to play in the period.
That's when Hoover began chipping away at the lead.
Junior Teo Davidian took the lead for the Tornadoes, scoring six consecutive points toward the end of the quarter on his first baskets of the game.
“We hustled,” said Davidian, who finished with seven points and eight rebounds. “We wanted it.”
Hoover didn't take its first lead of more than a point until Jashley Francisco hit his first three-pointer with 4:37 to play in the fourth, giving the Tornadoes a 43-40 cushion. Francisco, plagued by foul trouble most of the night, had 10 points, as did senior starting guard Ando Adjemian. Adjemian was lost for the game, and possibly Friday's second-round game, when he landed awkwardly in the third quarter. He said he might have fractured his right foot.
Adjemian watched from the bench as the Tornadoes hit key free throws in the end and Firebaugh struggled from the field. The Falcons were six of 23 shooting in the second half.
“We hung in there,” said Van Patten, whose team finished 19 of 23 from the free-throw line. “We found a way to win. It was fun. It wasn't fun while we were playing, but it's fun now.
“Good teams find a way to win.”