Boys basketball finals previews: Thursday's games
THURSDAY'S CIF-SS BOYS BASKETBALL CHAMPIONSHIP GAMES
TUSTIN (29-2) VS. ROYAL OF SIMI VALLEY (23-7)
Site, time: Anaheim Convention Center, 6:30 p.m.
Road to the finals: Tustin, No. 1 seed: first round, def. Cerritos, 69-41; second round, def. San Bernardino, 60-43; quarterfinals, def. Bonita, 52-48; semifinals, def. Compton, 58-51. Royal, No. 6 seed: first round, def. Citrus Valley, 67-33; second round, def. Claremont, 69-29; quarterfinals, def. West Torrance, 42-38; semifinals, def. Brea Olinda, 63-54.
Outlook: The Empire League champion Tillers have won 16 in a row to reach their first CIF final since 1995. Their last defeat came to Division 1AA finalist Mater Dei in late December. Tustin has been one of the top teams in the county all season, beating 1A finalist El Toro, 1A semifinalist Dana Hills, 3AA finalist Santa Margarita and 3AA semifinalist Corona del Mar. The Tillers are defensive-minded, scoring a modest 58.4 points per game but allowing just 43.3 points. They have held all four playoff opponents to 51 points or less. It is a magic number, of sorts, as Tustin has given up more than 51 points just five times all season, including its two defeats. The senior-laden Tillers are led by twin towers Nick Hornsby and Deondre Bryant, both of whom have posted multiple double-doubles in the postseason. Tustin advanced to the 3AAA quarterfinals last season. Royal is not quite as tall as Tustin but is similarly stacked with seniors that have achieved even greater playoff success. The Highlanders reached the 2AA finals last season and the 2A quarterfinals the year before. Royal finished second in the difficult Marmonte League this season, behind 2A finalist Westlake. The league also features 2AA semifinalist Thousand Oaks, which Royal beat twice, and 3AAA quarterfinalist Calabasas, which Royal split its two meetings with. Two of Royal's other defeats came to 1A finalist Santa Monica and Central Section power Bullard of Fresno. The Highlanders score 62.9 ppg and allow 46 ppg. Tustin's and Royal's lone common opponent is Village Christian of Sun Valley, which the Tillers beat by two and the Highlanders lost to by 14.
- ADAM MAYA
SANTA MARGARITA (16-14) VS. DAMIAN OF LA VERNE (24-6)
Site, time: Anaheim Convention Center, 8:15 p.m.
Road to the finals: Santa Margarita, seeded fifth, def. Century, 59-26, in the first round; Lakeside of Lake Elsinore, 76-60, in the second round; Diamond Ranch of Pomona, 63-45, in the quarterfinals; and Leuzinger of Lawndale, 65-59, in the semifinals. Damien, seeded second, def. Los Amigos, 74-28, in the first round; Wilson of Hacienda Heights, 60-45, in the second round; Temescal Canyon of Lake Elsinore, 62-32, in the quarterfinals; and Corona del Mar, 61-53, in the semifinals.
Outlook: Santa Margarita was on an 11-game losing streak going into the playoffs. The Eagles finished last in the Trinity League with a 0-10 league record. The playoffs represented a new season and a new opportunity, and Santa Margarita took advantage. Leading the way has been 6-foot-8 junior forward Joe Furstinger, who is averaging 19 points a game in the playoffs. He scored 21 with 16 rebounds in the semifinals victory over division top-seeded Leuzinger. Junior point guard Devonte Klines has been an effective player on offense and defense. Klines had eight assists in the Leuzinger game. Santa Margarita has a new coach this season, Jeff Reinert, who coached college basketball for 24 years. He replaced Jerry DeBusk, who retired after 20 years as Eagles coach. Santa Margarita won five CIF-Southern Section boys basketball championships, in 1994, '96, '98, 2004 and '05. Damien, which has not won a CIF-SS boys basketball title, finished in second place in the Sierra League, behind Chino Hills. Damien has defeated a couple of Orange County teams, including Sunny Hills, 79-45, on Jan. 21. Spartans 6-3 guard Jeremy Hemsley is one of the top sophomores in Southern California.
Top players: Santa Margarita-- Joe Furstinger (17 ppg, 11rpg); Devonte Klines (12 ppg, 5 apg); Tyler Strauss (10 ppg); Ryan Merritt (9 ppg). Damien – Jeremy Hemsley (18 ppg, 5 apg); Jared Dizon (14 ppg); Keith Cavanaugh (6 ppg).
- STEVE FRYER