While relieved to advance to the semifinals, Renaissance Academy basketball Coach Sid Cooke was anything but pleased with his team's performance.
In Tuesday's CIF Southern Section Division III quarterfinal, the Wildcats allowed visiting Santa Fe to hang around well into the closing minutes of the fourth quarter before pulling away for a 67-54 victory.
"We were just trying to slow the ball down to run time, but [the Chiefs] were good enough to make us run," said Renaissance guard Josh Thomas of the pressure the team faced in protecting a 59-51 lead with 2:30 to play. "But we are also good at that [up tempo] game, so that's how we were able to put it away."
The Wildcats were led by Thomas' 23 points, 11 of which came in the fourth quarter to keep the lead hovering around double digits.
Renaissance also got big games from forward Hector Harold (17 rebounds) and center Anthony Stover (15 points, 13 rebounds and eight blocks).
Justin Cook (14 points, nine rebounds, five assists, three blocks) even managed to fill the stat sheet nicely despite running into foul trouble and taking only three second-half shots.
Still, it was an unsightly 22 turnovers, combined with numerous missed opportunities to put the game away earlier, that had Cooke fuming after the game.
"We're not playing well -- [Santa Fe] really outplayed us in stretches," he said. "If we can just get balance from everyone then we're OK, but we're just not getting good play from everyone, as far as decision-making.
"If we can get a total game, win or lose, I'll be happy."
Renaissance looked cohesive enough in the opening minutes, rushing out to a 6-0 lead on a Stover slam dunk, then going up 11-0 on Harold's three-pointer from the wing just three minutes in.
After a down second quarter, the Wildcats found themselves up just 36-24 going into halftime.
They led by just seven going into the fourth quarter after turning the ball over 14 times in the middle quarters.
"The turnovers [hurt us], and we didn't play defense like we usually do," Thomas said.
Renaissance (26-1), the No. 2 seed, relied on its best stretch of play early in the fourth to stem the tide.
Cook scored his first two points of the second half on a putback, then found Thomas with a length--of-the-court pass for a layup in transition.
Thomas hit a three-pointer to push the lead back to 56-42 with 5:05 to play.
Santa Fe (22-8) sabotaged its own comeback by making just three of 12 fourth-quarter free throws.
Next up for the Wildcats is a semifinal battle with sixth-seeded Perris Friday night, at a site to be determined.