Connor Woolpert says whenever he gets a chance to dunk in front of his home fans, he tries to take advantage.
Woolpert scored the Royals’ first seven points in the first round of the CIF Division 5 state boys basketball playoffs Wednesday.
And one of those buckets was a two-handed jam that got the home crowd fired up and kicked off a laugher for Mission Prep in a 70-23 win at home against Laton High of Fresno County.
Woolpert had a team-high 19 points and five rebounds and the 6-foot-5 senior was 1 for 2 on dunks, after missing one later in the game that ricocheted high off the rim.
By the fourth quarter, the Royals (24-8) had their substitutes in the game and the officials used a running clock with the home team ahead by more than 40.
Freshman Kerney Lane and sophomore guard Jimmy Lee each had buckets in the fourth quarter, which led the home crowd to chant their names as the Royals coasted to the victory.
Sophomore guard Quinton Adlesh had 15 points while senior point guard Andy Rowley added 11points, six assists and five steals.
“We wanted to establish ourselves early,” Woolpert said. “We’ve come out a little sluggish lately, so I wanted to come out firing.”
Woolpert said it only took the Royals a couple of hours to mentally recover from the 54-46 loss in the CIF-Southern Section Division 5AA final to Buckley of Sherman Oaks on Saturday and realize they needed to look forward to the state tournament.
“The next day, we knew we had to get after it and we were ready to go,” Woolpert said.
The Royals came in as the third seed and a favorable draw in Laton (11-19), a No. 14 seed, which was the runner-up in the CIF-Central Section final, a bracket that only had seven teams participate compared with 32 squads in the CIF-Southern Section bracket.
The Royals move on to play San Gabriel Academy at home Saturday. San Gabriel Valley beat Rolling Hills 51-35 on Wednesday, according to the CIF website.
Royals coach Terrance Harris said he was working on changing the game time from 7 p.m. to 5 p.m. and will make an announcement as soon as he can.
No player for Laton is taller than 6-1 and none averaged more than 10 points per game.
The Royals had the size, speed and skill advantage against the Mustangs to pressure them on the zone and force numerous turnovers.
Rowley picked the pocket of a Laton player early in the first half for an easy layup and several errant passes turned into fastbreak drills for the Royals.
Evan Talbert had seven points, and Patrick Laird added six and five rebounds for the Royals, who had 11 players score in the game.
In the section final against Buckley on Saturday, only three Royals scored in the first half, and Adlesh and Woolpert accounted for 21 of the team’s 23 first-half points.
Harris said the Royals had worked on scoring off assists to try to create a more balanced scoring attack.
“We want to get Connor, Quinton and Andy going,” Harris said. “But if Patrick Laird, Michael Cardwell, and Tyler Baty also are making baskets, that makes us a much harder team to guard.”
Woolpert said that whenever he gets a chance to dunk in front of home fans it’s a “why not?” situation.
“I try to if it’s there,” Woolpert. “Why not?”