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Boys Basketball

Santa Barbara’s Super Season Ends in State Quarterfinals, 70-67

CIF 2A-champion Dons fall to a scrappy, hot-shooting Bonita before an overflow crowd at J.R. Richards Gym; they finish with 32-2 record

Ben Clay of Santa Barbara fires a shot under pressure from Bonita’s Anthony Cascarano. Clay scored 17 points.
Ben Clay of Santa Barbara fires a shot under pressure from Bonita’s Anthony Cascarano. Clay scored 17 points. (Javier Delarosa / Noozhawk photo)

When Ben Brown’s last-second 3-pointer bounced off the rim, the most successful boys basketball season at Santa Barbara High came to an end.

The Dons suffered their first loss since Dec. 2, falling to Bonita, 70-67, in a quarterfinal game of the CIF Division 3 State Regionals before a standing-room-only crowd at J.R. Richards Gym.

[Scroll down for video highlights]

Santa Barbara finished a record-setting season with a 32-2 record and a CIF-Southern Section Division 2A championship, the school’s first CIF boys basketball title since 1991.

Bonita, the 3AA Division runner-up, used its quickness, scrappy man-to-man defense, the excellent 3-point shooting of Joe Quintana and a superb effort blocking out on rebounds against the taller Dons to rally from 41-31 deficit in the second quarter. The Bearcats held a Santa Barbara team that scored 102 points in its previous state tournament game to nine points in the third quarter and 26 points in the second half.

“Those guys are really great players,” Santa Barbara coach Dave Bregante said. “We knew that all along. I thought they hurt us on the boards in the second half, we missed some free throws, we missed some layups – the little things that make you lose.”

Northeastern-bound Bolden Brace led the Dons with 18 points, Ben Clay scored 17, Nick Busch had 13 and Brown 10.

Bonita coach Tim Godley said his head was still spinning as he headed to the team bus.

Santa Barbara’s Nick Busch drives the lane for a shot.
Santa Barbara’s Nick Busch drives the lane for a shot. (Javier Delarosa / Noozhawk photo)

“Honestly, we might have caught them off guard a little bit, but our kids played great,” he said.

Junior guard Joe Quintana led the Bearcats with his sharp shooting from the outside. He buried five 3-pointers and scored 28 points. Tyler Poepping tallied 13 points and Russell Hernandez hit two clutch treys in the fourth quarter and finished with 12 points.

“We knew we had to shoot threes and make them to win. We’re not going to post them up,” said Godley of his squad who had no player over 6-2.

In addition to their tremendous shooting, the Bearcats played tenacious defense. They hustled all over the court and made it tough for Santa Barbara to get open 3-point looks. They would then push the ball up the court.

“We try to get the ball up the court fast,” Godley said. “We want to stretch the defense, we want to make them run back.  I think we got them a little tired.”

Santa Barbara’s fatigue showed on the boards and on loose balls. Bonita seemed to come up with most of them.

“They played great,” Bregante said. “You got to give them credit. We gave them a lot of second shots; a lot of 50-50 balls they ended up with. We were just a step slow tonight.”

"We had a long season, definitely, so I think we were all a little tired," Busch said. "They had a long season, too. We were tired and they were able to run on us tonight a little bit."

Clay admitted he was tired. "It's been a long season on my body playing 29 minutes each night," he said. "I tried to make up for it with some Gatorade but it didn't really work."

Bregante was impressed with Bonita’s play. “That’s a great defensive team, and No. 2 (Quintana) is a great shooter. That guy can light ’em up. They did a great job defending us, especially in the second half.  In the first half, we were OK, we got 41 points.”

Busch hit a shot from the free-throw line, Brown buried a three and Sterling Clerx scored on a tip-in for 7-0 run and a 41-31 Santa Barbara lead.

But Bonita closed the gap when Quintana fed Andrew Williams for a couple of baskets to make it 41-35.

“I told (my guys) at halftime, they’re up by six because they beat us down the court and we didn’t pick up their shooter. Those guys can just flat out drain it,” said Godley of the Dons.

Santa Barbara got off to a good start in the third quarter, taking a 46-38 lead.  But the Dons suffered a blow when defensive specialist Paul DeBruynkops got hit in the head battling for a ball and fell to the floor. He left the court woozy.

“He was doing a great job defending No. 2,” Bregante said. “He was slowing him down, and when he got hurt, that hurt us too.”

Bonita stepped up its defensive pressure, capitalized on Santa Barbara turnovers and started controlling the boards.

Santa Barbara also hurt itself by missing shots inside.

Bonita took a 46-44 lead when Yoofi Monney hit a pair of free throws. Logan Zystra scored inside to put the Bearcats up 52-49, but Brace created space with a cross-over dribble and buried a 3-pointer just before the buzzer to knot the score at 52-all.

Hernandez and Poepping knocked down threes from the opposite corners to start the fourth quarter for the Bearcats. An offensive rebound by Quintana and a 15-footer by Williams put Bonita ahead 67-59.

“We thought we could hurt them on the boards a little bit, which we didn’t. And we thought we could hurt them inside. They did a great job double teaming the post and we missed some layups in the second half,” Bregante said. “We probably missed five layups in the second half. In a game like this, you got to take advantage of every opportunity. We make one or two of those layups we win the game, we hit a couple more free throws we win the game.”

Down 70-64, Santa Barbara made a furious run in the last minute. Busch scored on an offensive rebound and Clay hit one of three free throws to make it 70-67. The Dons got a break on the last miss as Bonita stepped out of bounds with the ball.

Brace missed a 3-pointer and there was a tie-up on the rebound. The possession arrow was in Santa Barbara’s favor, giving it another chance to tie the score. The Dons inbound to Brace, who was being tightly guarded. He got the ball to Brown for an open 3-pointer but the ball wouldn’t drop.

And the Dons’ fantastic season came to an end.

"It's been amazing," said Busch. "The last two years have easily been the best two years of my life playing with these guys. I'll never forget it."

Noozhawk sports editor Barry Punzal can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

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