The fourth quarter of a Southern Section quarterfinal playoff game is hardly the time to start missing free throws, but Newport Harbor High School did just that and it ultimately cost the Sailors a trip to the L.A. Sports Arena.
Friday at Orange Coast College, Dominguez beat Newport Harbor, 49-43, in a 4-A division quarterfinal game that the Sailors threatened to win right down to the last minute.
The Sailors squandered what chances they had to pull the game out in the fourth quarter largely because of missed foul shots--many of them the front end of one-and-one free-throw opportunities.
Going into the fourth quarter, Newport Harbor made 4-of-6 free throws. In the fourth quarter, the Sailors hit only 1 of 8. Newport Harbor finished 5 of 14 (36%).
Otherwise, the Sailors gave Dominguez all it could handle, taking an early lead, losing it, and then trying to recover the rest of the way.
"Well, we ended up 24-4, we were (Sea View) league champs, and we made it to the quarterfinals in the playoffs," Newport Harbor Coach Jerry DeBusk said. "So this team surpassed every goal I'd set for it last spring."
If anything, the Dons played into the Sailors' hands from the start. Both teams are big and strong, but Dominguez is much quicker. The Dons aren't a running team, however, preferring to play mostly a half-court game.
That is what allowed the Sailors to jump to an 8-2 lead, their biggest of the game. Behind the floor play and shooting of guard Chuck McGavran, the Sailors scored four-straight baskets by quickly pushing the ball upcourt and finding the open man for the shot.
"I think McGavran showed himself as being a great player," DeBusk said.
For the rest of the game, McGavran's ball handling and outside shooting kept the Sailors from being blown out.
Dominguez Coach Ernest Carr was equally impressed with the Sea View League's most valuable player.
"McGavran is a lot better than I thought he was," Carr said. "He took our guys on one-on-one and made some big shots. I saw Newport play Estancia a couple weeks ago and I think McGavran was feeling ill that day. He sure looked great tonight."
Unfortunately for the Sailors, so did the Dons' Curtis Williams and Michael Moore. Those two 6-foot, 5-inch forwards led the Dons in scoring with 14 and 12 points, respectively, but it was their defense that was the key.
Williams and Moore teamed with guards Rod Palmer and Chris Ceballos to put on a stifling full-court press midway through the first quarter, one that effectively took Newport Harbor out its game until the Sailors could make adjustments at halftime. By then they were losing by seven points and committing turnovers.
The press allowed Dominguez to pull ahead at the end of the first quarter, 12-10, and build a 27-20 lead going into the third quarter. By making the Sailors work just to bring the ball upcourt, the Dons kept them from getting the easy shots near the basket that they had found at the start.
Newport Harbor countered the full-court pressure by using junior guard Maurice Lee to help McGavran with ball handling.
The Sailors crept back into the game in the fourth quarter when the Dons went into a delay offense with a 41-34 lead.
A jump shot by forward Rob Mase put the Sailors within four points at 44-40 with 3:58 left, but they did not score again until nine seconds were left and the game was out of reach. The Sailors missed five free throws during that stretch and with them went their chances of catching up.
Dominguez (22-4) advances to the 4-A semifinals against Buena at the Sports Arena.