SAN DIEGO — Zach Peck, Monte Vista High School basketball coach, has warned his players all season not to foul. In the Grossmont League, where free-throw shooting is a forte of most teams, a foul late in game could be the decisive factor.
But as Monte Vista prepares for Saturday night's 3-A San Diego Section championship game at 8:30 in the San Diego Sports Arena, Peck is altering his commands.
"We told the kids to be aggressive," Peck said. "We told them to be strong and be tough, and if the fouls come we'll take our chances with Morse's free throws.
"In the Grossmont League, most teams shoot pretty well from the line, so we have to be careful about fouling."
Against Morse, whose only weak spot is free-throw shooting, Peck is hoping that Monte Vista's aggressive style will give the Monarchs an edge. After all, when Mira Mesa beat Morse, 39-38 (Morse's only loss to a San Diego County team), the Tigers made only 7 of 21 free throws.
But Morse Coach Ron Davis is not worried about his team's free-throw shooting.
"If we go in depending on free-throw shooting, nine times out of 10 we will come out on the short end," Davis said. "(But) usually my kids make free throws in pressure situations."
Morse's weakness at the line is not much to build a game plan around, but for Peck and a relatively short and slow Monte Vista team, it's all that's left.
Morse's defense inside the key is about as smooth as two kids wrestling on a dusty playground. Though hardly graceful, it is effective and, coupled with the Tigers' speedy fast-break offense, proved to Peck earlier this season that Morse is difficult to prepare for.
"I'm not sure what we will do," Peck said. "I don't know if we can be ready.
"The kids have to be willing to have shots blocked and roll off and come back . . . we can't just go from the outside."
When the teams met early this season, Peck said he felt that Morse would win, mainly because he didn't think his team was that good.
"We weren't pointing for them the first time," Peck said. "We had already started our league schedule. I didn't think we were that great."
Morse won, 79-64, overpowering Monte Vista with its fast-break offense, taking control of the game after the opening period.
Morse has a distinct size advantage, with eight players at 6-foot 4-inches or taller. Monte Vista's tallest players, Wayne Hallman and Tom Bento, are 6-4 and 6-5, respectively.
And Morse's shortest player, Rey Parson (5-9) set a San Diego Section record with 21 steals in one game this season.
There is one bright spot for Monte Vista, however. Morse struggled against Mount Miguel (of the Grossmont League) in Wednesday's semifinal, holding on for a 58-54 victory.
"To see Mount Miguel stay right with (Morse) makes me feel like it is possible to play with them," Peck said.
Monte Vista was 3-1 against Mount Miguel this season.