Size Matters: San Ysidro wins Tigers Classic
The last time Terry Tucker and the San Ysidro Cougars were in El Centro, then-freshman guard Mikey Williams was breaking the CIF single-game scoring record in front of a sold-out gym at Imperial High.
This time around, there were no huge crowds and no scoring records broken, but the Cougars still imposed their will on the rest of the field at the Tigers Classic, winning the tournament and not really being challenged at any point.
And they did it with their size.
The Cougars defeated Valhalla 88-69 in the championship game, with four players scoring in double figures, three of which are 6-7 or taller.
6-8 senior forward Martin Flores scored a team-high 21 points, while 6-7 sophomore Andrei Tovar and 6-8 senior Fran Valenzuela added 16 and 15, respectively.
The other double-figure scorer was 6-4 senior guard Sebastian Medina - who in this tournament was bigger than many team's starting front court players - with 19 points.
Valhalla, the only other San Diego team in the 8-team field, battled with the Cougars during the first half, cutting the lead to 35-31 just before halftime. But San Ysidro turned up the defensive pressure in the half court, using an extended zone to force the Norsemen guards into turnovers that Flores and Co. quickly converted into buckets. By halftime, the Cougars led by 11, 44-33, and the game wouldn't be closer.
In the fourth quarter, the Cougars turned to Valenzuela and Tovar, who pounded Valhalla on the offensive glass to the tune of 18 points on offensive putbacks.
6-1 senior guard Alden Elliasen scored a game-high 26 points for Valhalla, doing his best to keep the Norsemen close by scoring some tough layups mixed in with three 3s from deep. Fellow senior Josue Amaya added 20.
For the Cougars, who started the season 0-3 after losing to Saint Augustine, Sierra Canyon and Cathedral Catholic, the championship win is their fifth in a row.
Valhalla falls to 4-3, with losses to San Ysidro, Montgomery and Mission Bay.
In other Tigers Classic final day action:
Third Place: Indio 59, Imperial 25
The Imperial Tigers led 9-6 after the first quarter, much to the delight of the partisan home crowd.
The good feelings lasted about 2 minutes.
Keyed by a zone defense that the Tigers couldn't solve, the Rajahs went on a 23-2 run in the second quarter and didn't look back.
Jacob Canizales, a 6-3 junior guard, scored 14 points, many of which were transition layups started from his defensive effort on the other end.
The Rajahs, who are led by 6-3 scorer Jack Durant and 6-1 dynamic - albeit mercurial - guard Leetron Turner, completely neutralized the Tigers star sophomore David Scariano (a 6-5 wing with a pretty perimeter stroke), holding him to four points.
Consolation Championship: Southwest El Centro 53, Yuma (AZ) 42
In the closest game of the day, the Eagles amassed a 13-point second quarter lead behind the strong guard play of 5-7 senior Leo Castillo, and repelled several comeback attempts by the Criminals down the stretch.
Yuma cut the lead to 39-34 with 2:41 in the third quarter, and Southwest didn't help its cause by going 1-12 over the final three minutes of the third.
But Yuma couldn't capitalized, missing shots and turning the ball over at a prolific rate themselves.
Castillo finished with 18 points, and hit a big three down the stretch to effectively seal with victory for the Eagles. Yuma got solid contributions from 6-2 junior Dennis Rolland.
Jack Lira (9 points), Jake Kim (8 points) and Nate Smith (6 second half points) all had solid moments for the Eagles in the win.
Seventh Place: Brawley 71, Calipatria 51
The neighborhood rivalry game was pretty much over after the first quarter, when senior sharpshooter Jaylin Mak hit four threes (17 points in the first quarter) and the Wildcats got out to a 27-7 lead.
Credit the young Hornets team - which only has six players and no seniors - for playing Brawley even the rest of the way, but there was too much Mak on the day, as he finished with a day-high 32 points in the win.
I left impressed with 5-4 sophomore guard Noah Spence for Calipatria, who finished with 16 points, and his younger brother, 5-8 freshman guard Caleb, who scored 10 in the first half and finished with 16 as well.