While some leagues revert to intricate tie-breaking formulas, coin flips or even a playoff to determine its third-place team, and more important, its final representative in the postseason playoffs, the South Coast League tossed away all the formalities Friday night.
By the simple fate of the schedule, Capistrano Valley and El Toro high schools played each other on the last night of the regular season. Coincidentally, the teams were trying to get the final playoff spot.
And while the caliber of play wasn't up to playoff standards, Capistrano Valley did qualify for the tournament by posting a 64-56 win at Saddleback College in Mission Viejo.
The Cougars made six-of-seven free-throw attempts in the final quarter to pull out the win and emerge as the third-place team with an 8-4 record in the seven-team league. Mission Viejo won its second straight title, Dana Hills was second.
El Toro finished league with a 6-6 record and the satisfaction of knowing it matched the Cougars basket for basket until the final 56 seconds. Capistrano Valley forward Shawn Reed made four free throws in the last minute to seal the win.
"We're still a little shaky, but at least we're in," Cougar Coach Mark Thornton said. "Hopefully, we'll get a rest until next Friday and get back on the right track."
It's no secret the Cougars have been struggling lately. There hasn't been much zip in their patented fastbreak and their defense has left a lot to be desired. Capistrano Valley was setback early in the game on Friday night when forward Tom Manley twisted his right ankle in the first quarter and didn't return until the second half.
"We haven't been rebounding very well and consequently it has hurt our fastbreak," Thornton said. "It was hard to run without Manley."
El Toro Coach Tim Travers figured he had the Cougars right where he wanted them. The Chargers were controlling the pace and forcing the Cougars into a half-court game. But with 2:55 left, El Toro committed a costly turnover, lost control of the game and saw its playoff hopes vanish.
It appeared as if the game was going to turn in El Toro's favor. The Chargers were trailing, 50-47, when center Chuck Kunsaitis was fouled while connecting on a short bank shot. Cougar center Reid Lukes was assessed a technical foul for disputing the call and suddenly El Toro was looking at a possible six-point play and the lead.
Kunsaitis completed the three-point play to push the Chargers to within one point, 50-49. Guard Tim McLain made the technical foul shot to tie the score, 50-50, and then the Chargers got the ball out of bounds.
But El Toro turned the ball over on the inbounds play and it was the last time the Chargers were in the game.
"We controlled the pace and had a chance to turn the game around with the technical," Travers said. "But we dribbled right into their trap and got the turnover. No question it was the turning point in the game."
EL TORO (56)--Moynihan 6, Shockey 10, Kunsaitis 9, Stone 14, McLain 13, Johnson 4.
CAPISTRANO VALLEY (64)--Manley 6, Reed 13, Lukes 19, Bujnovsky 12, Call 10, Trask 4.
Irvine 79, Laguna Hills 70--Center Shawn Patchell (22 points) and guard Mike Herring (20) led the Vaqueros (1-11, 7-18) at Laguna Hills in retiring Coach John Moore's last game for the Hawks. Mike Garcia had 18 points for the Hawks (4-8, 12-13).
IRVINE (79)--Herring 20, Moceri 12, Patchell 22, Raye 6, Damura 9, Schulz 2, Snoddy 8.
LAGUNA HILLS (70)--Garcia 18, Seiling 13, Conradt 9, Ringler 8, Halliday 12, Rahe 8, Parker 2.