Right on time, the Arroyo Grande High boys basketball team might be poised to make another playoff run.
A year ago, the Eagles finished third in PAC 7 league play but outlasted the two teams above them, making it to the semifinals of the CIF-Southern Section Division III-AA postseason.
Last week, they lost a league-title showdown with Righetti to go into the bracket as the runner-up, falling for the fourth time in six games, no less.
Arroyo Grande snapped out of its recent funk Friday night at James Gym, though, ousting visiting Newbury Park 48-33 to move on to the division’s second round.
“The playoff vibe is just different,” Eagles senior point guard Michael Escobedo said. “Everyone comes in more focused. In league, it’s nice to put your name up on a banner, but to be honest, (the postseason) is so much more competitive.
“You’re playing teams you’ll never see again,” he said. “I look forward to this time of year every single season.”
Escobedo led the Eagles (20-7) with 16 points, while fellow guards Matt McAustin and Kyle Kleinsmith added seven each.
Arroyo Grande as a whole had been in a shooting slump of late, but Escobedo knocked down a trio of 3-pointers through the first three quarters.
The seventh-seeded Eagles moved on to face No. 10 seed North Torrance at 7 Friday night. A coin flip this morning will determine the host site.
“It was nice to hit some shots,” Arroyo Grande coach Ryan Glanville said with a smile. “Hopefully that carries over to Friday.
“We knew we had to limit our turnovers, take care of the basketball and knock down shots,” Glanville added. “One thing this team is still trying to figure out is to be a better passing team and to share the ball. One of the keys to last year’s team was that we just moved the ball well and found the open man.”
McAustin added to the hot shooting by sinking a 3 of his own on the last play of the third quarter for a 40-16 lead.
“We’re finally emerging from it,” McAustin said of the recent shooting struggles.
The Eagles led 12-0 early, giving up only one basket in the opening quarter — seconds before the horn.
“We didn’t do anything special,” Glanville said of the early defensive showing. “We were just playing straight man-to-man defense, and we did a really good job.”
They allowed only one additional field goal in the second to lead 23-8 at halftime.
Although Arroyo Grande established its largest lead of the night at 41-16 early in the fourth, the Panthers then went on a 17-1 run that included three long bombs.
“We came out with intensity,” McAustin said. “We didn’t play to our full potential defensively (in the second half), but then we got back to it.”
The lead was just 42-33 with about two-and-a-half minutes remaining.
“It felt like a playoff game,” Escobedo said. “Usually playoff games are a lot closer. Last year, we were in the same position, just reversed, against Agora, where we were down by 17 or 20 in the second half and then we came back and won that game. You can never underestimate anyone.”
After the Panthers’ surge, however, Arroyo Grande held on, seemingly putting the contest out of reach at 46-33 on a layup-and-foul by 6-foot-5 power forward Derick Beasley with 1:24 left.
Patrick McBride finished with a team-high 10 points for Newbury Park (12-16), an at-large squad from the Marmonte League.
Beasley had three crowd-pleasing blocks on the night, and 6-5, 260-pound sophomore center Garrett Weinreich also provided a physical presence down low for the Eagles, who forced Newbury Park to eat up shot-clock time late by swinging the ball around the perimeter.
“They had no answer for our bigs, and our posts put a lot of pressure on them,” Escobedo said.