SAN DIEGO — After Poway High's 77-74 victory over Muir Tuesday night in the first round of the State Regional basketball playoffs in Peterson Gym, two former UCLA players spent a little time together on the sidelines.
Walt Hazzard, the current Bruin coach, and Neville Saner, the Poway coach, both played college ball under John Wooden.
"Your boys played awfully well," Hazzard told Saner. "You did a good job with them."
Hazzard had to be particularly impressed with Poway's Jud Buechler, who scored 31 points and helped seal Poway's first-ever victory in state tournament play by hitting 15 for 15 from the free-throw line, 11 of which came in the fourth quarter.
Hazzard wasn't the only coach in town to see Buechler and another top prospect, forward Stacey Augmon of Muir. Pepperdine Coach Jim Harrick was also present.
"Buechler's a hell of a nice player," Harrick said. "We've been in the lead (to get him) all the way but now I don't know."
The first official day for seniors to sign a national letter of intent is April 9. And Buechler certainly will be one of the most highly sought-after players.
He was magnificent Tuesday night, especially in the first half when the Titans opened a 37-33 lead.
In the first quarter, Buechler put on a one-man show for two minutes to help the Titans gain an advantage they would never lose.
With his team trailing 8-6, Buechler scored on two layups and two slam dunks. Moments later, he drew the defense to him and bounced a pass to Dominick Johnson for a layup that put Poway ahead, 16-10.
"He was exceptional as usual," Saner said. "We had some trouble with their pressure, but he always found a way to deal with it."
In the second half, Buechler was tied up offensively by Muir's quick defense. So Poway went inside to Johnson, who responded with 11 points and 24 overall.
Augmon showed moments of brilliance for Muir. But he was unable to stop Poway's inside duo, partly because he was still suffering from the flu.
"I just wish you all could have seen the real Stacey Augmon," Muir Coach Mike O'Connor said. "Poway has a fine team but I don't think they would have got the kind of inside stuff they got if Stacey was 100%."
Augmon still finished with 14 points before fouling out midway through the fourth quarter.
With Augmon out, Muir made it interesting in the final moments, however.
Poway led 70-60 with 1:40 remaining when the Mustangs started forcing turnovers with their full-court press.
A jumper by Derek Brown closed the gap to 74-72 with 19 seconds remaining, but Muir could get no closer. Brown was called for a technical foul for fouling Andy Byrne as he attempted to take the ball in. Buechler hit the free throw to make it 75-72.
Buechler hit two more from the line with 15 seconds left to seal the win.
"This is a special win for us," Buechler said. "We've been wanting to get past this first game for three years now.
"It's been kind of tough around school because our wrestling team just won the state title (on Saturday), and they've been saying, 'You mean you guys are only in the first round?' "
Well, they're not anymore. Poway advaces to the regional semifinals Thursday night against Crenshaw High. The game will be played at Cal State Dominguez Hills at 7:30.
Last year, Crenshaw eliminated Poway in the first round of the state tournament.