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VALLEY/VENTURA COUNTY SPORTS

Santa Clara in Familiar Spot: Final

V-AA: With 58-53 victory over Chadwick, Saints and Cvijanovich will play for 15th title.

March 04, 1998|MITCH POLIN | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

ROLLING HILLS ESTATES — This is familiar territory for the Santa Clara High boys' basketball team.

With their 58-53 victory over Chadwick in the Southern Section V-AA semifinals Tuesday night at Peninsula High, the Saints (14-12) are in position to defend their title and claim their 15th in 40 seasons under Coach Lou Cvijanovich.

The Saints will play Pacific Hills for the title Friday at the Bren Center.

Regardless of the result, Cvijanovich said this has been one of the most rewarding seasons for him.

"It's been a difficult year for me," Cvijanovich said. "My brother died a moth ago and I was gone for a week. Then I had a gall bladder operation three weeks ago."

The team also struggled most of the season without star swingman Nick Jones, who broke his foot on the first day of practice.

Playing in only his third game of the season, Jones finished with 17 points and seven rebounds and forward B.J. Ward had 18 points and six rebounds to pace Santa Clara.

Center Ryan McGill added 14 points for the Saints, including all eight of his free-throw attempts. Not bad considering he is one of the poorest free-throw shooters on the team.

"You got to be a little nuts to coach this game," Cvijanovich said. "All season he was about a 50% free-throw shooter and look what he does tonight."

After clinging to a 30-29 lead at the half, Santa Clara used the shooting of Jones and McGill to extend its lead to 54-41 by early in the fourth quarter.

Chadwick (15-5), which was led by Ryan Maier with 18 points, never pulled closer than five points after that.

Santa Clara made 59.4% of its shots from the field, making 22 of 37 attempts. Chadwick made only 40.8% of its shots, including seven for 24 on three-point attempts.

Most important to Cvijanovich is that the Saints will be making another appearance in a championship game.

"It's nice to make it to the final four, but the final two is even better," he said.

McGill and Ward finished with five assists each for Santa Clara and Scott Sorich had six points on two three-pointers. Santa Clara made just three of 12 three-point attempts.

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