Fullerton High School opened a 13-point first-quarter lead and never looked back, earning a 52-45 victory over Troy Tuesday night in the semifinals of the Freeway League boys' basketball tournament.
Fullerton made seven of 10 shots in the first quarter to set the tone for the evening. The victory moves the Indians (14-8) into the championship game at 7:30 tonight against Sunny Hills.
Sunny Hills advanced to the title game with a 75-64 victory over Buena Park.
Troy (14-8) will get a second opportunity to qualify for next week's Southern Section 3-A division playoffs, but the Warriors will need a victory over Buena Park at 6 tonight to advance to the playoffs.
Fullerton opened a 15-2 lead in the first quarter behind the play of forward Pete Bach and reserve guard David Sawyer. Troy, coming off a difficult first-round victory over La Habra Monday night, had problems getting started and made only 4 of 15 shots in the first period.
"They had a tough game last night against La Habra, and I thought we could get them down early," said Randy Forgette, Fullerton coach. "Except for a cold spell in the third quarter, I thought we played awfully well."
Fullerton missed its first nine shots in the second half, but Troy managed to trim only two points off an eight-point halftime deficit. The Warriors made two serious runs at Fullerton in the final quarter, narrowing the Indians' lead to 48-45 with 2:46 remaining on two free throws by guard Pat O'Curran.
Sawyer answered with a jump shot and two free throws to push Fullerton comfortably ahead, 52-45, with 1:58 left, and the Indians were never threatened again.
"We had trouble making layups when it counted and had poor shot selection to open the game," said Ed Graham, Troy coach. "We're not getting much production from our inside players, and if that doesn't improve, we're in trouble against Buena Park."
O'Curran was the only player to score in double figures for Troy with 15 points as front-line players Tim Morris (6) and Matt Crothers (8) managed just 14 points between them. Pete Bach, improving with every game, led a balanced Fullerton attack with 12 points, followed by Greg Wilber (11), Sawyer (10) and center Alan Lewis (9 points and 11 rebounds).
The victory assured Fullerton of making the playoffs, a feat the Indians failed to accomplish last year despite winning the league championship. The Indians lost two straight games in the tournament, and the memory hasn't escaped Forgette's players.
"Last year, we won the league and then it seemed we had to prove ourselves all over again," Forgette said. "This year, the tournament is a second chance to prove we can beat Sunny Hills."
In the other semifinal:
Sunny Hills 75, Buena Park 64--Forward Brian McCloskey scored 30 points and had 25 rebounds for the league champions. The score were tied, 31-31, at halftime, but McCloskey scored 12 points in the last quarter. Forward Kevin Graddy scored 28 points for Buena Park.