Mike Lowe, coach of the boys' basketball team at Hacienda Heights Wilson High, doesn't like to sound immodest, but he just couldn't help it Saturday night.
"I don't like to say it like this, but I think we clearly had the better team," Lowe said after Wilson breezed past Oceanside El Camino, 64-46, to win the Division II Southern Regional championship Saturday night in the Sports Arena. Better was a good description. But Lowe forgot about bigger, faster, quicker and deeper. In fact, Wilson--led by its 6-foot-10 senior center Scott Williams--dominated nearly every phase of the game to move into next Saturday's state final in Oakland against Aptos.
"We felt pretty good going into this game," Lowe said. "I knew if we played smart ball, we'd have a good chance of coming through it."
Williams scored 16 points--four below his season average--but was the main reason Wilson was in control throughout the game. He pulled down a game-high 12 rebounds and frustrated most of El Camino's attempts to get the ball inside.
"He was even better than advertised," El Camino Coach Ray Johnson said. "We haven't played against anyone with his size and agility. He's a super player."
El Camino, the San Diego Section 2-A champion, had reached Saturday's final thanks mostly to the inside scoring duo of Kenny Crawford and Steve Heard.
But El Camino (26-4) could not go further because of Williams. Both Heard and Crawford were unable to get away shots in close and became frustrated. Crawford picked up his third foul with 7:56 remaining in the second quarter and had to sit out the remainder of the half.
"That third foul on Kenny really hurt us," Johnson said. "But their big guy had a lot to do with that. He was making it tough for our guys underneath."
With Crawford out, Williams gave away center stage to his supporting cast, and Wilson pulled away to a 31-16 halftime advantage.
Damon Owens scored consecutive baskets to get Wilson started, and Neil Weingarten added a pair of baskets from inside. Then Williams went back to work.
He drew a fourth foul on El Camino center Nate Reed two minutes before the half and hit two free throws to give Wilson its 15-point cushion.
"We have lot of good players besides Scott and they performed well," Lowe said. "But still, nobody was better than he was out there tonight."
As if he already hadn't done enough damage, Williams started the second half with a pair of slam dunks. Dwain Daniels then scored on a layin to push Wilson's advantage to 37-16 two minutes in the second half. El Camino never got closer than 16 points the rest of the way.
"It wasn't as easy as it looked," Williams said. "They had quite a few guys who could jump right with you inside. It took us awhile to get it going."
Once Wilson did, however, it was lights out. Weingarten added 14 points, and Daniels had 12 to help Wilson, which also enjoyed a 41-30 rebounding advantage.
Heard scored nine points late in the fourth quarter and wound up leading El Camino with 12. Crawford added 11. As a team, El Camino shot only 32% (18 of 56) from the field.
"With Williams clogging up the middle we had to go outside," Johnson said. "They were giving us the 15-footer but we just couldn't hit it."
The win raised Wilson's record to 29-3 going into the championship game. The Southern Section 3-A champions decided to take the win over El Camino in stride.
"We don't want to celebrate too much," Williams reminded everyone. "We've got the real big one next week."