And to think, 11 days ago El Toro almost didn't get out of the first round.
The top-seeded team in the Southern Section Division 1A boys' basketball playoffs, the Chargers managed to escape the opening round with a three-point victory over an at-large team with a losing record.
Tuesday night in front of an energetic home crowd watching the semifinals, El Toro scored a 30-point victory.
The Chargers dominated from the outset and coasted to a 68-38 landslide over fourth-seeded Crescenta Valley from La Crescenta.
In doing so, El Toro (27-5) advances to the Southern Section championship on Saturday, 6 p.m., at the Anaheim Convention Center where it will play second-seeded Santa Monica (24-6).
Tanner Aguera drilled six three-point baskets for a game-high 20 points for the Chargers, who opened a 20-8 lead in the first quarter and closed with a 20-9 fluourish in the fourth.
George Buaku added 13 points and Sean Harman 11 for El Toro. Cody White and Jake Lunardi scored eight apiece.
Crescenta Valley (24-8) got 15 points from Cole Currie.
The win sends El Toro to the finals for the third time in its history. It was beaten in both previous appearances by seven points, in 2001 by Glendora and 2005 by Aliso Niguel.
In the other Division 1A semifinal
(2) Santa Monica 60, (6) Dana Hills 41—Had Dana Hills gone into Santa Monica High and beaten the second-seeded Vikings, people would have been talking about the greatest victory in the program's victory.
Instead, people will be talking about the reality of the Dolphins losing to a better team. Plain and simple. End of story.
The Cinderella run by sixth-seeded Dana Hills (23-8) ended deeper in the playoffs than it had ever gone. Denied a first trip to the section finals, the Dolphins' glass slipper was crushed almost from the outset.
They gave up the game's first 12 points and teased themselves by pulling to 16-12 early in the second quarter, but Santa Monica's 24-3 burst through the remainder of the half was too much to overcome. A 40-15 deficit made the outcome imminent.
Jack Clendenen scored a team-high 11 and Cory Blau 10 for Dana Hills. Hayden Fredrick contributed nine points for the Dolphins, who finished second to San Clemente in the Sea View League and had won eight in a row.
Division 2A, semifinals
(1) Westlake 60, (5) Tesoro 51—The injury to Tanner Lancona was like a punch to the gut for Tesoro. Actually, a little lower.
The fifth-seeded Titans (21-10) showed they could play with the top-seeded Warriors (26-4) on the opposing home court in Westlake Village, but a groin injury to Lancona—a 6-foot-9 senior who averages 17.8 points—put the Titans on their backs.
The absence of the Washington State-bound forward was huge.
Tesoro had an 18-4 lead early in the second quarter when Lancona was injured while trying to stop a fast break. In hindsight, he should have played the matador.
Westlake cut the deficit to 24-16 by halftime and opened the third quarter with a 16-1 run while Lancona was on the bench, unable to walk. In total, the Warriors outscored Tesoro 28-7 before the Titans showed any signs of recovery. Down 32-25, Tesoro was outscored only 28-26 the rest of the way.
Lancona scored five points before he left the game. Austin Channer pulled down 11 rebounds and scored a team-high 16 for Tesoro. John Jenkins scored 12, but no one else scored more than five points.
Westlake will play second-seeded Redondo Union, a 55-41 winner over 11th-seeded Arroyo Grande, in the championship on Saturday, 2 p.m.
Tuesday Playoff Scoreboard
Southern Section Boys' Basketball Playoffs
Division 1AA, semifinals
(1) Mater Dei 65, (12) Inglewood 49
(6) Etiwanda 59, (2) Long Beach Poly 55 (OT)
Division 1A, semifinals
(1) El Toro 68, (4) Crescenta Valley 38
(2) Santa Monica 60, (6) Dana Hills 41
Division 2A, semifinals
(1) Westlake 60, (5) Tesoro 51
(2) Redondo 55, (11) Arroyo Grande 41