The second half of Friday night's Orange League game between Brea-Olinda and Valencia high schools was set to begin except for one minor problem: The Tigers were nowhere in sight.
Considering the way these teams had played in the first half, the large crowd in the Wildcats' gym had to be wondering if Valencia Coach Ray Rodriguez and his players had slipped through a back door during halftime and headed for more comfortable confines.
Brea's gym was certainly no place to be.
The Wildcats, behind the torrid shooting of senior forward Ron Thomas, built a 23-point lead after two periods and cruised to a 73-52 victory over the Tigers to take sole possession of first place in the Orange League.
The Tigers finally appeared for the second half--albeit a few minutes late because they were in the locker room too long--and outplayed the Wildcats in the last two quarters, outscoring them, 37-35. But they simply could not make up the large first-half deficit.
Thomas, the younger brother of former Wildcat star Paul Thomas, finished with a game-high 32 points and 11 rebounds, as Brea remained undefeated in league. Bob Terry added 15 points, Gary Chiotti had 14 points, and point guard Dexter Mumar had 6 points and 12 assists.
The Tigers (3-1), who fell into second place, made one run at the Wildcats in the second half, trimming the lead to 14 points, 62-48, on Dennis Burbank's three-point play with 3:16 remaining.
Valencia had a chance to cut the deficit to 12, but Mike Munoz, who sparked the Tigers with 10 second-half points, missed two free throws. Brea's Mike Thorum then converted a three-point play, and the Wildcats went on a 6-2 run to increase the lead to 21 points, 71-70.
Brea shot 51% (25 of 49) and made 16 of 26 shots in the first half (62%). Even on those occasions when the Wildcats missed in the first half, they seemed to get all the breaks.
For instance, Terry missed a jump shot early in the second quarter, but Chiotti was there for the tip in. Terry then missed two straight shots a few moments later, but Chiotti rebounded the second miss and banked it in for a basket.
Valencia, meanwhile, shot 39% (23 of 59) and 26% (6 of 23) in the first half. The Tigers also turned the ball over 20 times and had trouble getting high-percentage shots against Brea's zone, which was packed inside the key for most of the game.
"When you're a good shooting team and you're hitting them well, anything can happen," Brea Coach Rick Jones said. "A lot of things went right for us, and things just didn't go well for them. If we shoot well and play reasonably good defense, we're going to win our share of games."
The Wildcats have won their share against Valencia. Dating back to the 1960-61 season, Brea leads the series, 35-18. It was Brea's seventh straight victory over the Tigers since the 1983-84 season.
Savanna 55, Anaheim 37--Junior forward Robby Booker scored 12 points to lead the Rebels at Savanna. Earnest Johnston of Anaheim led all scorers with 16 points. Savanna never trailed by less than six points in the second half.
Magnolia 83, Western 61--Mark Goff scored 31 points and Mike Lyon had 22 as the Sentinels (3-1) won at Western. Joey Romero had 22 and Wayne Hurtado 11 for Western (0-4).