Wildcats ousted by Panthers in quarterfinals

 For the first half, things couldn't have looked better for the members of the Renaissance Academy basketball team.

With a 10-point lead and eyeing a return trip to the semifinals, Renaissance Coach Sid Cooke didn't rule out Pasadena Poly's experienced players having the ability to play better. Cooke was spot on with his assessment, while watching his team struggle on offense in the second half.

Fifth-seeded Renaissance mustered just 17 second-half points and saw its season come to an end Tuesday night in a 55-51 home loss against fourth-seeded Pasadena Poly in a CIF Southern Section Division V-A quarterfinal contest.

"Their seniors just stepped up and we knew that they have a lot of shooters and experienced players," said Cooke, whose team won the Harbor League championship before picking up playoff wins against Downey Calvary Chapel and Mary Star of the Sea. "We missed a couple of shots in the third quarter and it snowballed from there.

"We had some good looks and we didn't knock our shots down. They are bigger than us and we got the most out of what we had."

The Wildcats (22-7) held a 34-24 halftime lead. They did so by continuously pressing the Panthers (24-2) and forcing turnovers to build their biggest lead of the game. However, Pasadena Poly, which shared the Prep League championship with Flintridge Prep, made the adjustments and started spreading out Renaissance's defense and then forcing them to take long-range shots.

Renaissance scored five points in the third quarter and 12 in the fourth quarter.

"It took us a while to adjust to them," said Pasadena Poly Coach Brad Hall, whose team will next face top-seeded Sierra Canyon or ninth-seeded Aquinas in a semifinal game Friday. "They have a very good team and Sid does a good job with them.

"They shot the ball real well in the second half. I hoped they wouldn't keep it up."

Pasadena Poly received a game-high 26 points from Hunter Merryman, including 11 in the second half. Merryman made a long jump shot to give the Panthers a 51-45 lead with 1:11 remaining in the game and effectively end Renaissance's 17-game winning streak and season.

Renaissance got a team-best 15 points and 16 rebounds from center Jessy Cantinol. Cantinol had 12 first-half points, all in the first quarter. He struggled in the second half and fouled out with 2:58 left in the fourth quarter and the Wildcats trailing, 47-42.

Renaissance's Ed Burrows made a three-pointer at the halftime buzzer and finished the game with 11 points.

Pasadena Poly knotted the contest at 39 on a layup by Grant Genske with 16.7 second left in the third stanza. The basket appeared to revitalize the Panthers.

"They definitely had the experience and we didn't get back enough on defense in the second half," Renaissance guard Troy Fontanilla said. "Our shots didn't go in.

"We had a great season by winning league, winning 17 games in a row and going deep in he playoffs."

Daniel Wohl finished with 12 points, nine rebounds and four assists for the Panthers.

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