It has taken the Mission Prep boys basketball team a three-day road more than 700 miles long to reach this spot — a game on its home court for the chance to play in the CIF-Southern Section Division 4AA semifinals.
Despite earning the distinction as a No. 3 seed, the Royals were tasked with opening their playoff run with back-to-back road contests far from their post in the Southern Section’s northern-most county.
“We’ve just had some really long days,” said coach Terrance Harris, whose team hosts Laguna Beach at 7 p.m. today.
Mission Prep earned some recognition for its first-round sojourn — to Milken Community in Los Angeles — when longtime Los Angeles Times prep reporter Eric Sondheimer tweeted “the winner for the longest trip (in the first round of Southern Section basketball) is Mission Prep 187 miles. Lots of homework done.”
The opening-round 82-58 victory was surpassed in distance two days later, when a lost coin flip meant the Royals had to drive nearly 200 miles — both ways — to Inglewood for a game against Morningside.
Mission Prep (23-4) showed little signs of fatigue for most of the contest with the Monarchs, until it let a 10-point lead slip to one in the final moments before pulling out a 65-62 win.
Harris said weariness did not play a factor, but instead his team made a few simple errors the home team capitalized on.
Still, the team motto of “survive and advance” has been put to the ultimate test.
The Royals arrived in San Luis Obispo at 12:45 Thursday morning following their win over Milken Community. After going to school Thursday, Harris said they held a light practice and then left for Inglewood at noon Friday. By the time they returned home from their second-round win, it was 1:30 Saturday morning.
“We’ve found a way to survive,” Harris said.
Now, the winners of 16 straight get a chance to advance within the confines of their own gymnasium.
And the opportunity comes against a team that has yet to leave its hometown these playoffs.
The No. 6 seed Breakers (23-5) topped Don Bosco 58-42 before defeating Whittier Christian 67-55.
Both wins came at Laguna Beach High — 240 miles from Mission Prep.
“I certainly hope that we feel the weight of a home-court advantage,” Harris said. “Our guys will be ready.
“But I don’t expect (the Breakers) to not be ready. They are in the quarters for a reason. If we want this, we are going to have to go out there and take it.”
Also in boys basketball playoff matchups today, No. 2 seed Atascadero travels to No. 10 Servite in the Division 3AA quarterfinals, and No. 11 seed Arroyo Grande heads to sixth-seeded Tustin in the second round of the Division 2A bracket.
The Greyhounds (23-2), winners of 18 straight games, won their first two playoff games at home over Leuzinger (66-55) and No. 15 seed San Marcos (51-45). Servite (13-16) went just 1-9 in the prestigious Trinity League, but earned an at-large bid and topped Gabrielino (43-32) and seventh-seeded Western (44-42) to reach the quarterfinals.
The Eagles (20-8), who finished second to Atascadero in the PAC 7, dispatched Cerritos at home Thursday, 65-41. Tustin (20-7) is coming off a 43-35 home victory over Don Lugo in the opening round of the playoffs, and finished second to Western in the Empire League.
After tying for second in the PAC 7, Atascadero has made it to the Division 3A quarterfinals, where it will face No. 2 seed Santa Margarita at 7 p.m. Wednesday. The Greyhounds (17-9) won back-to-back home playoff games over South El Monte (52-18) and Bellflower (50-31), but will have to travel to play the Eagles. Santa Margarita (16-13) finished fourth in the Trinity League before defeating Azusa (59-23) and Lompoc (60-44) in the playoffs.
Arroyo Grande took fourth in the PAC 7, but was the only squad in the league to defeat champion Pioneer Valley. The Eagles (12-14) entered the Division 2A bracket unseeded, but traveled to Hemet and knocked off the Mountain Pass champions 41-19 Saturday. Arroyo Grande will host Royal (20-7) in the second round Wednesday. The Highlanders of Simi Valley earned the bracket’s fifth seed and defeated Claremont 65-34 in the opening round.
GIRLS WATER POLO
Arroyo Grande is into the semifinals for the eighth straight year, and will face top-seeded Los Osos at 3:30 p.m. Wednesday at the Woollett Aquatics Center in Irvine.
The Eagles (21-8) entered the Division 3 tournament as the No. 5 seed, and defeated Louisville at home 11-6 before heading on the road to take down fourth-seeded Ayala 10-7. Los Osos (22-9) has won seven straight, including playoff victories over Atascadero (24-5) and Palos Verdes (18-10).
The two teams played Jan. 11 in Arroyo Grande, with the Grizzlies getting the better of the Eagles, 6-4.
Arroyo Grande and San Luis Obispo reached the second round of the Division 3 playoffs by way of shutouts, but will face a pair of teams who did the same.
The Eagles (16-4-4) — champions of the PAC 7 and unbeaten in their past 13 matches — will host the Empire League’s Yorba Linda (10-7-5) Wednesday at 3 p.m. Arroyo Grande topped La Reina 3-0 Friday, while the Mustangs shut out Barstow 4-0.
The Tigers (16-4-3) defeated Crescenta Valley 4-0 at home in the opening round, and will travel to Cypress (15-5-5) — 10-0 winners over Burroughs.