Falcons advance to Division I finals for second time in three seasons
DEL MAR HEIGHTS – After three quarters in the Division I semifinals on Wednesday night, a single point separated Torrey Pines and Rancho Buena Vista. The fourth quarter belonged to the second-seeded Falcons, who rode an early run to a 70-60 win over the third-seeded Longhorns and a berth in the section finals.
“The entire game we thought we were getting great shots, but we just weren’t knocking them down like we normally would,” said Torrey Pines guard Joe Rahon. “We’re confident enough that we think the next one is going in every time. Lucky for us they did in that fourth quarter and we were able to pull away.”
Torrey Pines (25-5) led 48-47 at the start of the fourth quarter, and Rancho Buena Vista guard Johnny Dee scored the first basket of the quarter to take back the lead. The Falcons responded with an 11-2 run capped by consecutive Max Heller layups to take a 59-51 lead with five minutes to play.
“It was a fourth-quarter game; the momentum shifted and they just stepped it up,” said Rancho Buena Vista head coach Terry Miller. “They dominated mentally and discipline-wise.”
After the run, Torrey Pines led by at least six points for the rest of the game on its way to a 10-point win. The Falcons’ third win over the Longhorns this season earned a trip to Saturday’s Division I finals at the University of San Diego.
“It feels good,” Heller said. “Last year we feel like we probably would have made it if Joe (Rahon) hadn’t gone down.”
Having beaten Rancho Buena Vista (26-4) twice in the Hilltop Tournament in December, Torrey Pines knew what they were up against in Dee, the section’s leading scorer. Following coach John Olive’s game plan, Rahon covered Dee for the entire game and was joined by another defender in the second half.
“Normally we play switch everything on defense, but coach gave me the assignment to guard him one-on-one and not leave him,” Rahon said. “I did the best I could and my teammates gave a lot of help.”
Dee led all scorers at halftime with 17 points, but scored only eight in the second half to finish with a team-high 25. The Rancho Buena Vista senior attempted only four free throws for the entire game, and didn’t make a trip to the line after halftime.
“We knew he was going to get his 25 or 30 points, but we just wanted to make it as difficult as possible and make him shoot as many shots as possible,” Rahon said. “The refs let us play a little bit and we were able to keep him off the line.”
Helped defensively after halftime, Rahon scored 17 of his team-high 25 points in final two quarters. Heller added a season-high 19 for Torrey Pines, including eight in the decisive fourth quarter.
“My goal is to get everyone else involved and get them shots,” Heller said. “I don’t care about scoring but I felt like we needed a lift tonight, so I just took it to them.”
Torrey Pines will face top-seeded La Costa Canyon (26-4) Saturday night at 8:05 p.m. in the Division I finals. The Falcons are making their second section finals appearance in three years, and will be looking to make amends for a title game loss to El Camino in 2009.
“We feel like we’re much more prepared going into the finals this year,” Heller said. “Our heads were spinning last time, being in that big gym and being so young. I think we’re ready to go this time.”
For Rancho Buena Vista, center Joey Vaz (14 points) and guard Anthony Alston (13 points) also scored in double figures. The Longhorns fell a quarter short of the section finals, ending a memorable season on a sour note.
“No one at the beginning of the year would have expected Rancho Buena Vista to be here,” Miller said. “I’m proud of that for the kids’ sake and I just feel like we just got outcoached tonight.”
Torrey Pines – 70 (15-18-15-22)
Rahon 25, Heller 19, Neugarten 10, Vafiadis 5, Kerr 4 (starters) Galvin 7
Rancho Buena Vista – 60 (17-18-12-13)
Dee 25, Vaz 14, Alston 13, Morris 6, Vivier 0 (starters) Wood 2
Torrey Pines guard Max Heller surveys the defense with Rancho Buena Vista guard Anthony Alston defending