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CHRISTINE COTTER, THE ORANGE COUNTY REGISTER
El Toro's Liam Skelley battles Fountain Valley's Joey Petersen for a loose ball in the championship game of the Grizzly Invitational basketball tournament at Godinez High in Santa Ana.
See more photos in the OCVarsity Hot Shots slideshow.

Skelly sparks El Toro past Fountain Valley

FOR OCVARSITY.COM

SANTA ANA – El Toro guard Liam Skelly scored a game-high 25 points and the Chargers withstood a late run from Fountain Valley to claim a 75-70 victory over the Barons in the semifinals of the Grizzly Invitational Friday night at Godinez High.

El Toro (4-0) advances to the championship game to play South Coast League rival Aliso Niguel on Saturday at 7:45 p.m.

Skelly started the game on fire, draining four 3-pointers in the opening quarter. He finished the first half with 17 points, helping give the Chargers a 40-38 advantage at the half.

"Both teams shot the ball pretty well tonight; it was quite an offensive showdown," El Toro coach Todd Dixon said. "It was a matter of who had the ball last."


Slideshow:
OCVarsity Hot Shots: Friday's basketball, soccer


Center Jake Lunardi showed his range in the third quarter, knocking down three 3-pointers to extend the Chargers' lead to 61-52 after three.

The Barons (4-1) closed the gap quickly, opening the fourth quarter on an 11-4 run. Joey Petersen's layup midway through the period cut the Fountain Valley deficit to two points, making the score 65-63.

Skelly responded by draining his sixth and seventh 3-pointers of the night on the ensuing possessions, reclaiming an 8-point lead for the Chargers.

Fountain Valley's Josh Armstrong spearheaded a 7-0 run over the next 90 seconds, scoring 5 of his 19 points during a stretch that cut the lead to 71-70 with 47 seconds to play

"We work a lot on two-minute games and one-minutes games," Dixon said. "So we know what to do with only a few minutes left. I got a little bit of experience with the returners, so we were well prepared for the end of the game, and we knocked down some free throws."

Despite missing a shot with 10 seconds left in the game, Skelly grabbed the offensive board to maintain possession. The Chargers made four free throws late, and held the ball for 45 of the last 47 seconds to claim the victory.

"It's going to be a South Coast League showdown," Dixon said of the championship game. "It's always tough playing a league team, but I'm glad we're playing them in the championship."

Also in the Grizzly Invitational:

Aliso Niguel 58, Cypress 57: Jake Smith knocked down a 3-pointer from the wing with four seconds remaining in overtime to give the Wolverines a spot in the championship game against El Toro.

Smith finished with nine points, and teammate Scott Lynds scored a game-high 19 points for Aliso Niguel.


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