Kennedy High School's 58-55 upset victory over Saddleback in the quarterfinal round of the Southern Section 3-A playoffs Friday at Western High was not exactly one for the archives.
Each team has its share of turnovers, missed free throws and blown opportunities. The breakneck pace at which the game was played was as much to blame for the fumbling as anything else.
But John Mayberry, Kennedy coach, could have cared less how it looked. The victory puts Kennedy (20-7) into the semifinal round of the playoffs for the first time since the school started playing varsity basketball in 1964. Kennedy plays Rolling Hills, a 69-66 winner of Los Alamitos Friday, in the semifinals Tuesday.
Saddleback, which was the top-seeded team, finishes its season 24-5.
A pair of drives by Mike Pettengill and Michael Keith in the final minute allowed Kennedy to pull away for the win.
Pettengill's was the most important; it came with Kennedy holding a 54-53 lead with 57 seconds left in the game.
Pettengill, a 5-foot 9-inch junior point guard, has had many big games for the Fighting Irish, but Friday's wasn't one of them. He missed all five shots he took before making the drive and had trouble running the Kennedy offense.
Saddleback's Sean Simon followed him all over the court, making it difficult for him even to get the ball.
Saddleback, taking advantage of cold shooting by Kennedy, rallied from an eight-point deficit to start the fourth quarter. Saddleback tied the score, 52-52, on two free throws by Gylan Dottin, a 6-5 senior forward.
But Michael Keith made a follow shot for 2 of his game-high 24 points moments later to give Kennedy the lead for good, 54-52. It was a shaky advantage at best, though.
With 1:38 left, Malru Dottin, a junior center, made one of two free throws to cut the lead to one.
Then, during a timeout, Kennedy set up Pettengill's drive.
Mayberry said the play was not specifically designed for Pettengill to drive, but for any of the Kennedy players to go if they saw an opening.
"I said (during the timeout), "if it's open, take it," Mayberry said. "They had three guys with four fouls."
But did Mayberry want Pettengill shooting?
"Yes," Mayberry said. "He's an 82% free-throw shooter. If they were going to foul someone we wanted them to foul him. He had the worst game of his career in the first half, but he stuck with it."
As it turned out, none of the Roadrunners got close enough to touch Pettengill, who drove from just to the left of the free throw line and banked in a little scoop shot.
Saddleback couldn't counter when a three-point shot by Craig Marshall, who led the Roadrunners with 20 points, was partially blocked. Maurice Keith missed the front end of a one-and-one situation, but Kennedy got the rebound.
Michael Keith then added his layup to make it 58-53.
With 12 seconds to go, Marshall missed two free throws, but Gylan Dottin made a follow shot with 8 second left.