MYRTLE BEACH, S.C. — Simi Valley High's crusade for national recognition came within a rebound of reaching its destination--or somewhere very close to it.
The Pioneers have longed for such respect, particularly in this, the final season for seniors Don MacLean and Shawn DeLaittre. Monday, in the opening round of the Beach Ball Classic, Simi Valley came close against Hillcrest of Simpsonville, S.C., a team that has already attained national acclaim.
Hillcrest defeated Simi Valley, 86-85, but it took the Rams five shots in the final 14 seconds at Socastee High.
Senior center Bruce Evans' turnaround jumper from five feet with one second left was the Rams' last shot and the Pioneers' undoing.
Instead of playing DeMatha of Hyattsville, Md., in the championship quarterfinals as it had hoped, Simi Valley (8-2) plays Socastee in the consolation semifinals today at 2 p.m. PST. DeMatha, which defeated Socastee, 90-51, plays Hillcrest (7-0) at 7 p.m..
"We could have proved ourselves," said Maclean, who had 37 points and 12 rebounds. "They were a top 25 team in USA Today. It's disappointing because we came this far to win. We had the game won, but couldn't get a rebound."
Hillcrest is not ranked by USA Today, but was No. 22 in Street and Smith's preseason poll. There was no confusion, however, about Everick Sullivan, the Rams' All-American forward. Sullivan scored 36 points--18 on three-point shots. Sullivan has signed with Louisville but, unfortunately for Simi Valley, he's not there yet.
The 6-5 Sullivan also grabbed 14 rebounds.
Simi Valley took its first lead since early in the third quarter on DeLaittre's five-foot jumper with 40 seconds left in the game. The 6-5 senior's rebound and follow produced an 85-84 lead and capped an eight-point comeback for the Pioneers in the final 2:30.
DeLaittre scored nine of his 21 points in the fourth quarter and had 14 rebounds. He'd surely have traded all 14 for just one at the end.
"We just couldn't come down with the loose ball," Simi Valley Coach Bob Hawking said. "We obviously just couldn't come down with it."
Senior guard Butch Hawking scored 13 points for Simi Valley, including four three-pointers.
Bob Hawking was disappointed, but not distraught.
"We came here to play good teams, and we got one in the first round," he said. "That's the reason we're here: to play the toughest teams we could. If it happens we get a loss on our record, so be it."