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Monday, March 18 , 2019, 11:45 pm | Fair 53º

Sports: A Noozhawk Partnership with Santa Barbara Athletic Round Table, The Lab, and American Riviera Bank
Boys Basketball

Santa Barbara Claws Its Way Back From 18 Down, Beats Mary Star, 77-69, to Reach 3A Semifinals

Switch to a zone defense helps contain Stars' top player, who finished with 36 points; Bryce Warrecker, Stephen Davis each score 20 for Dons

Stephen Davis Click to view larger
Stephen Davis of Santa Barbara collides with Mary Star’s Aaron Martinez on a drive to the basket. Davis scored 20 points. (Gary Kim / Noozhawk photo)

A trip to the semifinals wasn’t looking good for the Santa Barbara High boys basketball team during the first half of Thursday’s quarterfinal game against Mary Star of San Pedro.

The Dons were sluggish and couldn’t make shots while Joseph Octave and the visiting Stars were on fire. They opened up an 18-point lead at J.R. Richards Gym.

Santa Barbara got it together in the last four minutes of the second quarter and carried that momentum into the second half. 

Led by 20 points from juniors Stephen Davis and Bryce Warrecker, and a switch to a zone defense, the Dons stormed back and won the game, 77-69, to earn a spot in the CIF-SS 3A Division final four.

They’ll play host to Palm Springs on Saturday night. Palm Springs defeated Shalevet 57-48.

Octave, who has signed with the U.S. Air Force Academy, was making shots all over the court against Santa Barbara’s man-to-man defense and scored 21 points in the first half. He drilled a pair of deep three-pointers and made a pair of layups during a 12-2 run to give the Stars a 29-11 lead at the 5:15 mark of the quarter.

Octave finished the game with 36. Of his 15 points in the second half, 11 came from the free-throw line.

"He’s a great player. He scored from everywhere," Santa Barbara coach Dave Bregante said.

Santa Barbara (28-3) finally found its groove when Davis fed Warrecker for a layup and followed with a pair of free throws to start a 15-5 run to end the second quarter. 

Bryce Warrecker Click to view larger
Bryce Warrecker of the Dons pulls down a rebound during CIF quarterfinal game against Mary Star. Warrcker finished with 20 points. (Gary Kim / Noozhawk photo)

The run ended spectacularly, with Davis passing to Will Rottman for a dunk and then knocking down a sweet step-back jumper with two seconds left on the clock to make it 34-26 game.

"One on one,  it’s my go-to move," said Davis of the step-back shot.

Santa Barbara’s attack kept rolling in the third quarter and the switch to a zone made a huge difference. It limited the number of times Octave touched the ball.

"We switched to a 1-2-2 and he had a really tough time getting shots off and all that." said senior Jackson Hamilton.

"I think it was a great switch to the zone," said Davis. "(Octave) was tough to stop, but once we went into the zone he struggled a little bit more."

Said Bregante: "We had to make some adjustments, obviously. Our game plan wasn’t very good and we were getting killed, so we made some changes both defensively and offensively and it started to work.

"The kids did a good job making there adjustments they had to make."

The Stars went scoreless for nearly five minutes in the third quarter, and the Dons went on a head-spinning 14-0 run.

Aiden Douglas buried a three-pointer to give them their first lead of the game at 35-34 at the 4:22 mark. Jasper Johnson scored on a follow shot and Douglas made a steal which led to a Hamilton three that rocked J.R. Richards Gym and gave the Dons a 40-34 lead.

"Our shots were falling left and right, it was amazing. It was good for us," said Hamilton.

The Stars ended their scoring drought with a Henner Joseph free throw at the 3:03 mark.

Santa Barbara answered with a Johnson three-pointer. He finished with 14 points.

As the zone continued to bother the Stars, Warrecker drove the lane and hit a little hook shot, Johnson made two free throws and Davis hit another step-back shot to give the Dons a 49-42 lead going into the fourth quarter. They outscored Mary Star 23-8 in the third.

"We didn’t respect them enough when we came out," Davis explained. "We knew about (Octave), we just underestimated everybody else."

Santa Barbara scored the first six points of the fourth quarter to go up by 13, 55-42.

Mary Star finally got the ball into Octave’s hands and he got to the free-throw line. He made four in a row and converted two more after the Dons were called for a technical foul following a personal foul.

Eleven straight free throws pulled the Stars to within four at 57-54.

The Dons missed a dunk on a 2-on-1 fast break after a turnover, but they got a break when Mary Star failed to score on its following possession. Warrecker grabbed the rebound and was fouled.

He made both free throws, starting a personal seven-point run. He scored off a pass from Davis and nailed a three after Mary Star’s Adrian Alvarez knocked one down. The Dons led 64-56 with 3:51 to go.

The Dons made 13 of 14 free throws down the stretch and Davis drew a huge charging foul against Mary Star three-point shooter Aaron Martinez (12 points). He fouled out with 1:20 left.

After Octave missed a three-pointer, Warrecker sank a pair of free throw and the Dons forced a turnover on the press to seal the victory and a berth in the semifinals.

Santa Barbara was nails from the free-throw line, making 26 of 29 freebies for the game.

"We practice free throws a decent amount," Davis said. "That was big to win the game."

Said Bregante: "The kids stepped up. They knew what they had to do and they stepped up."

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