Harding Invitational Tournament: Arroyo Grande rides hot first quarter to win

Arroyo Grande High boys basketball coach Ryan Glanville liked what he saw Friday night from his team. At least, for the first quarter he did.

The Eagles got out to a 24-4 first-quarter lead over Templeton at the 28th annual Harding Invitational Tournament at Morro Bay High. It was about even the rest of the way, with Arroyo Grande winning 54-38.

“In the first quarter, we came out with a lot of energy,” Glanville said. “But in the second, third and fourth, I thought we were going backwards. We kind of regressed a little bit and just weren’t very sharp offensively.”

Although Templeton made just eight field goals for the game, it found itself in the bonus in the second quarter, and went on to shoot 30 free throws, making 22.

“We got a little bit of momentum in the beginning, and then it kind of died off,” Arroyo Grande guard Michael Escobedo said. “Their guards were penetrating and slicing through the middle and drawing fouls.”

Templeton closed the deficit to 29-17 by halftime.

“There was really no flow in that basketball game, and that’s kind of our fault committing silly fouls,” Glanville said. “My concern right now is that we play really well in short spurts, like the first quarter.”

Arroyo Grande, which mustered five points in the second period, advanced to face Liberty of Bakersfield, which has averaged a 24-point margin of victory in its first two games at the tournament, at 2 p.m. today.

Escobedo drilled two 3-pointers and finished with a team-high 10 points. Andrew Hogue had nine for Arroyo Grande, and Matt McAustin and Ryan Echols each added seven.

Jordan Hattar had a game-high 19 points for Templeton, and Zach Egger added nine in defeat.

“We need to learn to put together a whole game,” Glanville said. “Against Liberty, (experiencing lapses) won’t work. If we don’t play solid from beginning to end, we’re going to lose that game. We’ve got our work cut out for us.”

Arroyo Grande (3-0), which opened the tournament by thrashing West Valley 61-32, is looking to build upon its deep playoff run last year. The Eagles’ early success has even come without senior center Tanner Hinek, who averaged 13.3 points per game a year ago but suffered an injury during this past football season.

In Hinek’s absence, Derick Beasley, Garrett Weinreich and Kelly Shepard have filled in nicely down low thus far.

“They’re doing well,” Escobedo said. “Tanner was a huge asset to lose, but the other bigs are stepping up, and I’m excited to see their growth in the middle.

“We have the puzzle pieces to put together. It just depends on when we gel. Last year, we jelled at the end of the season. This year we should come together a little earlier. We have a lot of potential.”

Nipomo 72, Morro Bay 51

The young Pirates, who fell to 0-2 at the tournament, struggled to keep up with the Titans’ hot perimeter shooting. After Nipomo got out to a 38-31 halftime lead, it pulled away with a 22-4 third-quarter advantage, establishing its biggest lead with just under six minutes left in regulation, at 66-38.

Jeff McNeil had a game-high 19 points for the Titans, who improved to 1-1 at the event. Ryan McNeil added 11.

For Morro Bay, which has only one senior, 6-foot-2 freshman guard Case Bruton consistently displayed the ability to get into the lane and had a team-best 11 points. Edward Griley, a 6-5 sophomore, chipped in 10 in defeat.

Nipomo will take on Tamalpais at 9:30 this morning, while Morro Bay will play Santa Maria at 8 a.m.

Atascadero 65, South Bakersfield 52

Troy Norris continued his hot streak, pouring in a game-high 29 points for the Greyhounds, who led 39-23 at the break en route to improving to 2-0 at the tournament.

Norris, a 5-10 junior, has seen an expanded role offensively after serving as a sparkplug off the bench as a sophomore during Atascadero’s co-PAC 7 championship run a year ago.

“He had a lot of outstanding games last year,” Greyhounds coach Jerry Tamelier said. “He does so many things instinctively; he just makes plays. He keeps getting better every time he steps on the floor.”

Taylor Hendrickson added 10 points for Atascadero, and Matt O’Connell chipped in six.

“We handled the press well for the second game, and we spread the floor and hit the open man,” Tamelier added. “We rebounded well and were really assertive.”

Atascadero moved on to face Davis at 11 this morning.

Liberty of Bakersfield 68, Paso Robles 42

A 13-point lead after three quarters mushroomed after a 17-4 fourth quarter for the Patriots, who opened the HIT with a similar 73-51 win over St. Joseph on Thursday.

Sam Marcus, a 5-9 guard, had 19 points for Liberty, as did Westin Hill.

For the Bearcats (2-1), who fell to 1-1 at the tournament, Lonnie Watson was the high scorer for the third time this season, shooting his way to a game-best 21 points.

Jake Murray added seven points for Paso Robles, and Adam White contributed six.

Paso Robles and Templeton will meet at 12:30 this afternoon.