ESCONDIDO — It's not a position Mike Williams is used to.
Normally about this time of the season, the Escondido High School boys' basketball coach begins to think about the young players on his team and watch the junior varsity a little more closely, hoping to find players who could turn his program around the next season.
But with a 56-44 victory over visiting Oceanside Wednesday night, No. 8 Escondido retained a share of first place in the Avocado League. Williams said it was the first time his team had been in first at the halfway point of the season in 10 years.
Escondido (13-4, 6-1) shares the top spot with El Camino, which it beat, 70-68, earlier this season.
"We're on an up surge right now," Williams said. "We're halfway home, but we've got a long way to go."
But Escondido seems to have what it needs to get through the second half as well as it did the first. And that's a change. It was always missing height, shooters or both during the past 10 years.
Now, 6-foot 7-inch Brooks Barnhard provides the inside game, and just about everyone else is scoring from outside. Escondido is shooting 48% from three-point range.
"We have six guys who can shoot the ball from out there," Williams said. "And Brooks does a great job for us. He didn't have a good game tonight (4 of 14), but he is shooting 59% for the season."
Even though he scored seven points below his 15-point scoring average, Barnhard helped out with 11 rebounds and 4 assists from the low post. And he scored 4 points during a stretch from the middle of the third quarter into the beginning of the fourth when Escondido outscored Oceanside, 21-4, and took control.
After trailing at halftime, 27-24, Oceanside took the lead, 33-32, with 4:27 to play in the third quarter when Donald Barner scored on scored off a fast-break pass from Sibian Fuimaono.
But Escondido played superb basketball during the next 10 minutes.
Mike Scales, who did not play in the first half, scored six points during the run. Jason Hendrickson had not scored, but he made two steals and scored seven points in about four minutes.
Oceanside, meanwhile, missed layup after layup and just about every outside shot it took and did not have an offensive rebound during the stretch.
That about did it for Oceanside (9-7, 5-2), which dropped from first with its second consecutive league loss.
"Mentally, we didn't belong in the same gym with them," Oceanside Coach Don Montamble said. "They started to execute during that stretch. And we failed to adjust. We weren't thinking.
"It looked like something miraculous happened, but it wasn't miraculous. We played like boneheads."