Coast Union lived up to its No. 1 seed during the first two rounds of the CIF Division 5A boys basketball playoffs, routing Besant Hill 49-19 in the opener and topping Faith Baptist of Canoga Park 43-33 in the second round.
The victories earned the Broncos a spot in the semifinals. They’ll travel to Riverside on Friday night, Feb. 24, to play Sherman Indian High School (12-2 in the Arrowhead League) in a 7 p.m. game to be broadcast on KTEA-FM (103.5).
Coast Union 49, Besant Hill 19
The most basic basketball lesson learned by folks in attendance at the Broncos’ CIF playoff game Friday night, Feb. 17, was this: The team with taller players — in this case, Besant Hill — won’t achieve victory when the other team (Coast Union) is quicker and plays tenacious defense.
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The top-seeded Broncos won 49-19 by harassing those towering players, stealing the ball, and running circles around the Coyotes, a team with nine players over 6 feet tall (including 6-8, 6-7, 6-5 and 6-3). Coast Union’s tallest player is Thor Ronemus at 6-3.
Speaking of steals, Nick Roper led the team with six, Jez Lawson had five, Jack MacKinnon had four, and Auggie Johnson grabbed three from the Coyotes. Johnson led the team with 11 points (including three 3-pointers) and Lawson chipped in with 10 points and four rebounds for Coast.
Roper had seven points, Roberto Cueva (six rebounds) and Jack MacKinnon each tallied six points, and Sam MacKinnon had five. Riley Kennedy nabbed six rebounds.
The Broncos scored 10 points in each of the first three quarters, and exploded for 19 points in the fourth quarter, as the Coyotes appeared to fade physically and Coast Union’s players — due to Coach Tim May’s laser focus on conditioning — were just as energetic as they were in the first quarter.
Notwithstanding the lopsided score, Bronco players found themselves trapped in corners “more than I would like in the first half,” May said. The low-post players for Coast were “extending themselves too far,” he explained.
Asked whether it was mostly Coast’s speed, quickness and defensive pressure that wore down the Coyotes — or whether the visitors were just not that good — May said his team was “locked in defensively. I loved the energy and hustle … I emphasized Nick Roper and Jez Lawson after the game individually,” May continued.
Of course it was the entire team the won the day, but May lauded Roper’s energy off the bench and credited Lawson’s “phenomenal job” defending the Coyotes’ 6-8 center.
Notwithstanding the impressive performance his team put on Friday, May said he still feels his team can be better.
“We turned the ball over a lot and missed too many free throws.”
Coast Union 43, Faith Baptist 33
May’s team had to deal with a freshman center who stands 6-10; when his teammates got him the ball inside, he simply lobbed the ball into the basket. But in front of a large and loud audience, the Broncos put fierce defensive pressure on the Contenders, outmaneuvered them, and eventually wore them down.
Led by the twins, Jack and Sam MacKinnon (who each had five rebounds), Coast Union won the battle of the boards. The twins each had three assists; and Jack tossed in 11 points (including three free throws in three attempts).
Jez Lawson, hustling all over the court and driving the lane for layups (some uncontested), led the scoring parade with 16, and he had four rebounds. Auggie Johnson had six points, four rebounds and a pair of assists. Riley Kennedy added four points to Coast’s totals.
The crowd got nervous when Faith Baptist came within two points of Coast at 33-31 late in the game, but the Broncos’ conditioning paid off as they closed the game on a 10-2 run.