It was difficult for Santa Ana High School forward Darrell Bailey to describe how he felt after the Saints' 57-54 win over Redlands in the first round of the 4-A Southern Section playoffs.
Santa Ana (20-6) will play Simi Valley (24-2)--a 67-56 winner over Glendale--in the second round.
It's not that Bailey is a man of few words, it was just that he didn't have the breath to form them.
He was exhausted.
It was Bailey who drew guard John Ramirez--the Terriers' playmaker and second leading scorer--as a defensive assignment. It was Bailey who loosened up a tight Terrier zone by driving the baseline and making jump shots. And it was Bailey who led numerous fast breaks as the Saints attempted to run Redlands out of the game.
Bailey ended the game with a season-high 14 points. Ramirez had 13 points, 9 of those during a desperate Redlands rally in the last four minutes of the game.
"I thought Darrell played super," said Greg Coombs, Santa Ana coach. "He knew he had to limit their best player, and he did a great job. He was playing so hard that we had to rest him every now and then just because he was exhausting himself."
Bailey sucked a couple of water-bottles dry and wore a pained expression every time he sat on the Santa Ana bench.
"My legs were cramping up from running so much," he said. "That's our game, though, running."
Running, as in running the fast break. Bailey led two consecutive Saints' breaks early in the fourth quarter--passing off to guard Jeff Stewart each time for baskets--to put Santa Ana up, 48-33. Stewart had a game-high 20 points.
The task of running the break is usually left to sophomore point guard Scooti Lynwood. But Lynwood played an inconsistent game.
At times he was brilliant, especially when he penetrated the Redland zone. But he also had several costly turnovers and committed a player control foul that allowed the Terriers to trim Santa Ana's lead to 52-46.
"A lot of these kids, especially the sophomores, have never played in the CIF playoffs," Coombs said. "You expect them to be a little nervous and make some mistakes in the first round."
It wasn't nerves that got to the Saints' sophomore center Bobby Joyce. It was the flu.
Joyce had only walked through practice all week, and a wore a tired expression on his face throughout the game. He finished with 10 points, 5 below his season average.
Redlands did a good job of limiting Joyce and power forward Eric Turner in the first quarter. The pair scored one point between, and Redlands had a 10-9 lead after the quarter.
In the second quarter Bailey started driving the baseline, stopping up for short jump shots. The shots went in, and the Redland zone was forced out.
The Terriers could no longer lay back and deny the ball to Joyce and Turner. The Saints started pushing the ball inside. They outscored Redlands 16-8 in the quarter, and went into halftime with a 25-17 lead.
That lead ballooned to as much as 14 points in the third quarter.
"I knew once Darrell started making his shots along the baseline we were in good shape," Coombs said. "They couldn't overplay inside. Things really opened up."