Story by Robert Schmidt, CCCMBCA/CCCAA
LEMOORE — For the first 32 minutes MiraCosta didn't look like a regional 21 seed in its CCCAA Men's Basketball Championship quarterfinal game against San Francisco City, the state's top-ranked team.
MiraCosta, the highest regional seeded team to ever make the Final Eight, slugged it out with San Francisco City before falling, 81-72. San Francisco City advances to the semifinals at West Hills College in Lemoore against the winner of Sequoias-San Bernardino Valley. Semifinal game times will be announced after the conclusion of the last game.
The victory was San Francisco City's 27th consecutive win.
MiraCosta (17-15) was the fourth-place team from the Pacific Coast Conference. The Spartans beat Cerro Coso in the first round of regional play and then dispatched No. 5 Rancho Santiago and No. 4 San Diego City, champions of the Pacific Coast Conference. San Diego City had previously beaten MiraCosta three times.
Against San Francisco City (31-1), MiraCosta pushed the action, and capitalized on 11 Ram turnovers and poor shooting from the three-point line (4 of 14, 28.6 percent) in the first half. MiraCosta opened with a 14-5 run. After the Rams took a 18-17 lead with 11:30 remaining, MiraCosta responded with 19-9 run of their own, opening a 12-point lead at 39-27. San Francisco City answered with a 7-2 run to close out the half but still trailed.
The 41-36 deficit at halftime marked one of just a few times San Francisco had trailed at halftime this season.
"At halftime, I didn't have to say a lot," Justin Labagh, head coach of San Francisco City said. "The guys have a high basketball IQ. They knew ad they were down on themselves, so I just reminded them that this game is about adjustments. And, I thought, whomever makes the most adjustments is going to win."
San Francisco City failed to have a player score more than seven points in the first half. Meanwhile, MiraCosta got 14 points from Julian Williams and 10 off the bench from Jordan Campbell.
The Rams emerged from the locker room and quickly got to work. An 8-2 run got the Rams within one at 46-45. With 15 minutes remaining, the Rams' Jamir Thomas hit a three-pointer for a 48-45 Ram lead. MiraCosta, however, stuck around. The Spartans were still within three points at 54-51 with 11:27 remaining and then again at 57-54 on a Carter Plousha dunk.
With 9:48 remaining a Lamont Couch Jr. layup cut the lead to one, 57-56. It remained a one and three-point game until the seven-minute mark when the Rams started pulling away. Holding a 62-61 lead, the Rams ran off six points to open a seven-point lead.
And it grew from there, reaching 10-points, 74-64, with 3:49 remaining. MiraCosta, however, did cave. The Spartans got the lead back down to five points at 74-69 with under two minutes remaining and then again at 77-72 with 51.6 seconds left. But it would be as close as the Spartans would get.
MiraCosta had five players score in double figures, led by Williams with 17 points. Patrick McLachlan, who had five points at half, finished with 15. Couch finished with 14 and Jordan Campbell and Plousha each came off the bench to score 10. San Francisco City was led by Julian Vaughns with 14 points. Teammate Naseem Gaskin, one of three state players of the year, was held to 11 points. Jamir Thomas came off the bench to score 10.
"There is a reason (MiraCosta) was in this game," Labagh said. "I told my guys that I didn't care where their basketball careers were at this point. Those guys were here for a reason. They had nothing to lose, they were going to play loose and make some shots.
"We tried to do some things to make them uncomfortable. But I think they did an amazing job."