The La Jolla Vikings boys’ basketball team, the number six seed, took on the Otay Ranch Mustangs at home Feb. 23 in the first round of the Division III CIF playoffs. Otay Ranch, a second-year high school and the second-place team out of the South Bay League, brought a young team with seven sophomores, five juniors and no seniors.
La Jolla’s strategy was to push the ball inside and challenge the young Mustangs at the rim. Center Gunther Gettelfinger took feeds from the perimeter and powered inside for early buckets and trips to the free throw line.
Otay Ranch countered with lanky 6-foot-5 sophomore center Ranee Woods, who used his length to protect the basket on the defensive end, while quick sophomore guard Robert Perry got inside for a few nice drives.
When La Jolla senior Martin Waldon made a steal and broke free for a lay-up, and then followed with a three to end the quarter, the Vikings held a 14-6 lead and a decided home court advantage.
La Jolla extended its lead to 18-8 on drives to the hoop by Darren Green and Waldon before Otay Ranch hit back-to-back three pointers to pull within four and cause Coach Kamal Assaf to call for a time out.
La Jolla came out of the time out more patient on offense and more aggressive on defense, and held Otay Ranch at bay the remainder of the half. When Cooper Waddell lowered his shoulder and drove down the lane, then kicked out to Jack Peterson on the wing for a three, La Jolla took a 27-19 lead into the locker room at halftime.
La Jolla continued its balanced team effort in the third quarter, as Waldon and Green attacked the basket and either scored or dumped off to the Viking big men for easy inside finishes.
On the highlight play of the night, Waldon cross-over dribbled into the lane, jumped and split two defenders, pumped once, then again, then dropped the ball under the outstretched arm of the Mustangs leaping Woods, corkscrewing the ball off the glass for two.
Otay Ranch showed good fight and promise for the future in their spirited effort in the fourth quarter, and La Jolla proved generous in making only 21 of 34 free throws for the game, but Viking senior Drew Haskett hit seven of eight from the line, many down the stretch, to help La Jolla secure the 57-46 victory.
In the second round game Feb. 26, La Jolla traveled 130 miles east into the desert to take on Brawley High School, 14-12, 6-1, the Imperial Valley League champs.
La Jolla came out shooting blanks in the first quarter. Brawley featured a three-quarter court zone press that burned 10 seconds off the Vikings shot clock each trip down the floor, leaving little time to find an open man or break down the defense. Though La Jolla’s dynamic duo of guards Martin Waldon and Darren Green did manage to fight to the rim, not much was falling inside or outside for the come-lately Vikings. Brawley led 18-11 at the end of the first quarter.
Brawley’s leader this season has been 6-foot-4, 200-pound senior swingman James Haley, a jumping jack with shooting range and strength to go inside as well.