Jeff Stone of El Toro High School likes to spend most of his practice time working on defense and ball handling.
But the Chargers have his offense to thank for helping them reach the Southern Section 4-A playoffs.
Stone, a 6-foot 2-inch senior guard, scored 8 of his game-high 22 points in the fourth quarter, including two free throws with 21 seconds left, to give El Toro a 63-61 victory over Irvine Saturday that sent the Chargers to the playoffs as the South Coast League's third-place team.
El Toro and Irvine were forced to play Saturday after finishing with 7-5 records. The Chargers are 14-11 overall.
Stone, The Times' Player of the Week, helped El Toro rally from a 13-point deficit early in the fourth quarter, and a seven-point margin with three minutes left.
Although El Toro Coach Tim Travers said Stone's strength is on defense, he has become a consistent offensive threat.
He's averaging 15.2 points a game and Saturday night's performance highlighted a week in which he scored 19 and 16 in two other games.
"It just depends on who's hot for us," Stone said. "Some games, I get the ball more than others. I'm kind of a streak shooter. Everything just went our way in the last quarter and especially in the last three minutes against Irvine."
Travers said he considers Stone the Chargers' best defender. He usually guards the opponent's best scorer. Travers said he was surprised by Stone's recent scoring outburst.
"He's made some big plays for us all year," Travers said. "But he's never dominated play the way he did in that fourth quarter. He must have been flat on the ground three or four times. He was playing like a man possessed."
With El Toro trailing and a playoff berth on the line, Stone said the Chargers were forced to gamble.
"I took some shots that weren't real good," he said. "I forced a couple of them. But we had to take some chances when we're down by seven with three minutes left and the shots just started falling."
Stone said he had only one thing on his mind when he stepped to the line for the winning free throws.
"I couldn't stop thinking about my arm," he said. "It sounds funny, but I've had a habit of dropping it when I'm at the line and it's hurt my foul shooting this season. I just wanted to make sure I had it up there straight."
El Toro High School
Height, Class: 6-2, Senior
Last Week: Scored 57 points in three games.
Season: Is averaging 15.2 points, 5.1 rebounds and 4.9 assists a game.