If El Toro's performance Saturday was Dr. Jekyll, then its performance Wednesday was Mr. Hyde.
The first round of the Southern California Regional Championships brought out the beast in third-seeded El Toro—and playing at home didn't hurt—as the Chargers took a step toward a state championship with a 69-54 victory over Oceanside El Camino.
With its victory, the Chargers (27-6) on Saturday will play host to Los Angeles Loyola (23-7), which scored a 76-68 victory over Woodland Hills Taft.
"It was nice being at home," said El Toro coach Todd Dixon. "We talked to the kids about being more motivated, and the first quarter set the tone and built that momentum."
Unlike its Southern Section final on Saturday at Anaheim Convention Center Arena, where the Chargers made only two of 24 from the three-point arc, El Toro made six of 20 against the Wildcats. It was still four fewer than its average, but it might as well have been a 180-degree turn from the 66-56 loss to Santa Monica. In that game, the Chargers went more than 13 minutes without a field goal, and made only 14 of 46 from the field.
Wednesday, they connected on 24 of 52 shots.
Although El Toro is a three-point shooting team, it didn't make its first three-pointer against El Camino until the second quarter, but had built a 20-8 lead in the first quarter by driving to the basket against El Camino's extended defense.
By halftime, the Chargers were ahead, 42-15, and the game was all but in the bag.
"Our defense is clicking ... and we kept the pressure on them," El Toro Coach Todd Dixon said.
Sean Harman scored 16, Jake Lunardi 14, Ryan Roberts 13 and Cody White 12 for El Toro, whose lead reached 33 points going into the fourth quarter, 62-29, before bench players began impacting the score.
"El Toro's a good team and came out with much more intensity, they were much more physical than us," said El Camino coach Ray Johnson, whose team got 12 points from Chad Morrison and 11 from Taqir Johnson. The Wildcats were seeded No. 14 in the 16-team tournament.
After its shooting struggles in an arena, El Toro learned it must be able to score inside—because there's no banking on the perimeter—if it reaches the regional finals at Citizens Bank Arena in Ontario on March 16.
Also in Division I
(4) San Marcos Mission Hills 56, (13) Dana Hills 55—In its first-ever game in the state tournament, Dana Hills very nearly advanced to the next round. The Dolphins, though, were outscored in the fourth quarter, 12-7, after having outscored their opponent in the third quarter, 25-15.
Jack Clendenen led Dana Hills with 19 points and Cory Blau added 14.
Dana Hills trailed at halftime, 29-23, before taking a 48-44 lead into the fourth quarter. The Dolphins missed a game-winning layup and tip-in at the buzzer.
Mission Hills took the final lead of the game with 21 seconds remaining on a pair of free throws by 7-foot Kameron Rooks—who had missed four free throws earlier.
Mission Hills (28-4) will play host to Inglewood on Saturday.
(9) Palisades 72, (8) Mission Viejo 70—The Diablos, who were upset in the Southern Section quarterfinals, fell on their home court to the ninth-seeded Dolphins. Palisades outscored Mission in the fourth quarter, 18-15.
Evan Zeller scored 16, Chandler Hutchison 13, Darin Sutton 13 and Max Redfield 10 for Mission Viejo, which held a 40-36 lead at halftime.
Shooting was the difference in the game. Palisades made 14 three-point baskets, and Mission Viejo missed a season-high 13 free throws.
Palisades will play at top-seeded Santa Monica on Saturday.
In Division II
(3) San Diego Hoover 84, (14) Tesoro 60—The game was closer than the score indicated as the Titans (21-11) let the game get away from them in the fourth quarter. Hoover (30-5) will next play San Marcos, which scored a 59-52 victory over Villa Park.
Tanner Lancona, whose groin injury in the section semifinals led tot he Titans' defeat, did not play against Hoover, a San Diego Section champion that held a two-point lead midway through the third quarter.
Damonte Holiday scored a game-high 32 for Hoover, including 12 in the fourth.
In Division III
(5) San Diego Cathedral Catholic 68, (12) Santa Margarita Catholic 65—The Eagles, beaten in the section finals by 14 points, almost advanced to the second round of the state tournament but were turned back by the home team.
Santa Margarita, which lost 11 in a row to end the regular season—including all 10 of its Trinity League games—finished 16-16 overall in Coach Jeff Reinert's first year.
In Girls Division IV
(4) JSerra 60, (13) Chula Vista Mater Dei 52—Coco Miller scored 26 points as the fourth-seeded Lions avenged an overtime loss to Mater Dei from earlier this season.
JSerra (23-7) will play host to Santa Fe Springs St. Paul (20-12) in the second round. Fifth-seeded St. Paul defeated 12th-seeded Exeter, 63-36.
JSerra trailed at halftime, 28-27, before scoring 20 in the third quarter and taking a 47-41 lead into the fourth.
In addition to Miller, JSerra got ample scoring from Courtney Vaccher and August Touchard, who scored 15 and 11 respectively.