El Toro's Maxx Hazely, left, puts the ball to the basket with teammate Tyler Collins, right, against Esperanza's Garrett Geiger on Friday.

El Toro hangs on against Esperanza


LAKE FOREST – Ups and downs are to be expected. But when you’re as young as El Toro’s boys basketball team, the emotional roller coaster can be fast and furious.

With only one senior in its starting lineup, host El Toro jumped out to a big lead in the first half, then had to scramble to hold on late in a 53-48 nonleague victory over No. 8 Esperanza on Friday night.

“We’re a young team with nine underclassmen,” Chargers coach Todd Dixon said. “The more experience that they have in games like this, it will prepare us for (the South Coast) league. That’s the goal, to shoot for that league championship.”

Dawit Wilson had a game-high 14 points for the 10th-ranked Chargers (5-2). Bruce Haidrey added nine points, and Levi Hazely had seven points and six rebounds.

El Toro was coming off a one-point defeat to Huntington Beach on Wednesday. The Chargers came out fast with a 17-point first quarter. El Toro extended a 10-point first-quarter lead to 16 with 4:22 left in the half.

Much of this was the Chargers taking advantage of their opportunities. Esperanza guard Kezie Okpala went into Friday averaging 26 points per game, but foul trouble rendered the Aztecs’ star to just five minutes on the floor in the first half.

El Toro led 39-30 going to the final quarter, but the Aztecs (3-4) rallied from behind the arc. Julian Almazan hit from deep, and the second of two 3-pointers by Travis Kettering cut the Chargers’ lead to three with 33 seconds to go.

On the next possession, Wilson broke open on a full sprint across the half-court line. He retrieved an inbounds pass and layed it in to restore the two-possession lead.

“We were just trying to trust our teammates when their guys were going to trap,” Wilson said. “Camaraderie really helps the fluidity of the offense.”

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