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HIGH SCHOOL BASKETBALL PLAYOFFS

Etiwanda heeds advice, beats Corona Centennial, 78-72

Coach tells Eagles after a shaky first half in a Division 1AA quarterfinal game that they need to step it up or say goodbye to the playoffs.

February 24, 2010|Eric Sondheimer

Aaron Crockett of Etiwanda was invisible for the first three quarters of Tuesday night's Southern Section Division 1AA quarterfinal playoff game against No. 3-seeded Corona Centennial.

He had a mere two points.

"They probably thought, 'Shoot, he can't score,' " the 6-foot-4 senior said. "I shot when I was open."

Then came the fourth quarter. He contributed two offensive-rebound baskets, plus a 15-footer that glanced off the rim and somehow fell in, to ignite the Eagles to a 78-72 victory and earn them a semifinal berth against No. 2 Long Beach Poly on Friday.

Etiwanda (22-8) received 28 points from USC-bound junior Byron Wesley, but it was a tough man-to-man defense that wore down the Huskies (25-5), who led by five points at one point in the fourth quarter.

Centennial's quickness and ability to score on transition baskets had Etiwanda scrambling in the first half, but Eagles Coach Dave Kleckner warned his team that its season would be over unless the second half was different.

"It really bugged us and we were on our heels," Kleckner said. "In the second half, we told the kids if we don't become the aggressors, our season is going to end tonight."

Etiwanda responded by scoring the first seven points of the third quarter to wipe out a 39-35 halftime deficit. But Centennial got determined play from Dominique Dunning, who had 23 points and contributed a three-point play at the end of the third quarter to tie the score, 56-56. Gelaun Wheelwright had 21 points.

Etiwanda, though, thrives on playing tough teams and on games going down to the wire. A demanding schedule prepared the Eagles for the pressure of Tuesday night.

"We've got a lot of losses, but our strength of schedule and learning from our losses has a lot to do with how we're playing," Kleckner said.

In the other 1AA quarterfinals, Santa Ana Mater Dei beat Los Alamitos, 80-60; Moreno Valley Rancho Verde beat Upland, 79-74, in overtime and Long Beach Poly beat Los Osos, 61-58.

eric.sondheimer @latimes.com

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