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O'Hern hot at the right time for Foothill

CONTRIBUTING WRITER

ROLLING HILLS ESTATES - As the third quarter began, Foothill led Peninsula of Rolling Hills Estates by one point in the semifinals of the CIF-SS Division 1A boys basketball playoffs. The game was close, and the Knights were unable to pull away from the upset-minded Panthers.

Then Foothill guard Riley O’Hern took over.

O’Hern shot 4-for-4 from beyond the 3-point arc in the third quarter and scored 19 second-half points to lead the Knights to a 70-61 win at Peninsula on Tuesday night, earning Foothill a spot in the championship game.

Foothill (27-3) will face Edison in the 1A final on Saturday at the Honda Center.

“It’s always awesome when I feel like that - like I can’t miss from anywhere,” O’Hern said. “Thankfully, they all went in.”

O’Hern finished with 27 points and shot 8-of-9 from the free-throw line down the stretch to fend off a Panthers comeback attempt.

O’Hern made three straight open 3-pointers to pad the Knights’ lead midway through the third quarter. After the Panthers (16-14) answered with a three of their own, O’Hern forced an off-balanced, contested shot that Coach Rusty Van Cleave wasn’t pleased with, but it went in.

“He’s probably the only one (who could take that shot), and he still gets talked to about taking it,” Van Cleave said. “He and I, it’s often a battle of wills. But I was a shooter when I played, so I get exactly where he’s coming from.”

Foothill’s last CIF championship came in 2010, when this current group of seniors (starters include O’Hern, Patton, Reed Nakakihara and Greg Blanchard) was in eighth grade.

Many of them were watching that game, and now they find themselves one win away from a championship of their own.

“I remember these kids as 8th graders,” Van Cleave said. “They were at the Honda Center when we won it four years ago, and I remember seeing them after the game and I thought, ‘If that group of guys stays together and plays right, they might have a chance to get here.’ It’s awesome that they’ve gotten themselves there now.”


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