TUSTIN — Less than two weeks ago, the Ocean View High boys' basketball team used a torrid shooting night to nearly upset Bellflower St. John Bosco in the semifinals of the CIF Southern Section Division 3A playoffs.
In the first round of the CIF State Division 3 Regional playoffs Tuesday against Tustin, the Seahawks turned to their defense to hang with the host Tillers, a team that on Feb. 28 won the CIF Southern Section 3AAA championship. That defensive effort kept the Seahawks within striking distance, but the Tillers began to pull away midway through the third quarter, and went on to post a 65-48 victory.
Ocean View ends its year at 23-8. The victory sends a Tustin team that with Tuesday's triumph, set the school's single-season record for wins, on to a Saturday second-round date with Cathedral Catholic of San Diego.
"They are 31-2 for a reason," Ocean View Coach Tim Walsh said of the Tillers, moments after the game. "Their defense is pretty tough and really challenged us. We weren't hitting many shots, we weren't working the ball around, as I had hoped we would, and we struggled from the floor. I thought that we played great defense in the first half, though."
The Seahawks did. They limited Tustin to just 22 points in the opening half but struggled to score only 18 points. In their 89-87 semifinal loss to St. John Bosco, which went on to claim the CIF Southern section 3A Division title Saturday, the Seahawks hit a school-record 19 three-pointers.
Tuesday, they were just five of 24 from behind the arc.
"We never found our groove tonight on offense," Walsh said.
After a 22-18 first half, Tustin reached its first double-digit lead early in the second half. A layup by sophomore guard George Wilson, set up by a steal by senior guard Xavier Powell, ended a 6-0 start by the Tillers to open the second half, and extended their lead to 28-18.
Ocean View got down by 13 points before sophomore guard Kendall Small came up with a steal and driving layup, and a free throw by junior forward Dillon Reise, pulled the Seahawks to within 35-25, with 1:53 left in the third quarter. It was then that the game got away from the Seahawks.
An illegal substitution resulted in a technical foul call against Ocean View with Reise at the free-throw line. Reise hit one of two foul shots and at the other end of the floor, Tustin senior guard Nick Hornsby hit both technical foul shots. With the Tillers maintaining possession, junior guard Rob Nelsen hit his first basket of the game, a three-point shot. With 1:03 left in the quarter, Hornsby connected from three-point range, and the lead ballooned to 43-25.
Ocean View closed out the quarter on a 7-0 run, capped by a twisting layup and two free throws by Small in the final 25 seconds, to draw the Seahawks to within 43-32 heading into the fourth quarter. T
They would get no closer the rest of the game.
Tustin senior forward Deondre Bryant, limited to two points and hampered by foul trouble in the first half, took over for the Tillers in the fourth quarter after Hornsby, who led all scorers with 24 points, fouled out with five minutes remaining and the Tillers in front, 51-37. Bryant scored eight of his 14 points in the quarter as the Tillers led by no less than 12 points in the final eight minutes.
Small led Ocean View in scoring with 16 points and grabbed 13 rebounds to go with three assists and two steals. Senior Josh Mishler, a team co-captain with Small, scored 13 points in his final game for the Seahawks. Mishler led the Seahawks early with six points in the opening quarter. Reise had seven points and nine rebounds, and junior guard Jelani Jackson scored four points and had eight rebounds.
"I thought we had a great season," Walsh said. "This [game] was something extra for us, and I thought we had a good chance tonight. We didn't play as well, overall, as I had hoped. But, this season was a good step in the right direction for us."