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Waller makes sure Servite wins first-round battle

OCVARSITY.COM

EL MONTE — Servite sophomore Travis Waller put aside competitive basketball last year, focusing instead on football and track and field. The multi-sport star, who won the varsity starting quarterback position midway through this past fall, returned to the hardwood this winter.

On Wednesday, Waller helped Servite return to the second round of the playoffs, relentlessly attacking the basket en route to 20 points in the Friars' 60-47 victory against Arroyo of El Monte in the first round of the CIF-SS 3AAA playoffs at Arroyo High.

Servite (16-12) will be host to No. 2 seed Sonora on Friday.

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“He came out ready to win this game,” Servite coach John Morris said of Waller. “If he comes out like this, we’re a different team. He’s gaining confidence.

"He definitely had the will to win. All our guys did.”

The Friars’ guys included Neil Pauu, Eric Torres, Louis Juego, Trevor Treinen and Brandon Rice. The six-man rotation alternated between man defense and three different zone defenses to hold Mission Valley League champion Arroyo (20-7) to 16 points in the second half.

A Torres layup in the third quarter capped off a 14-3 run that gave Servite a 44-36 lead heading into the fourth. Pauu scored 15 points and Torres had 10. The two guards’ perimeter defense, along with Waller’s, proved just as critical.

Arroyo guard Primitivo Gomez, who came in averaging 25.9 points, scored 16 in the first half. The Knights had picked apart Servite, making six 3-pointers while taking a 31-30 into halftime. They made one 3-pointer after the break and Gomez scored only three points.

“That’s our game — defense,” Morris said. “We just kind of junk it up. We just had to wake up a little bit. We came out flat, not ready to go.”

Servite is in the midst of its first winning season since 2006-07 and has already beaten two top-10 county teams at home (El Toro and Orange Lutheran). Its next opponent, Freeway League champion Sonora, finished the regular season ranked No. 8 in the county.

“It’s a special group,” Morris said of his team, which features just one senior starter. “We’re having fun and trying to make this thing last.”


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