ANAHEIM—Atascadero High School varsity boys basketball played with poise in the pressure cooker of an opening round CIF Southern Section 3A playoff game on the road Wednesday night to defeat Savanna, 81-76, in the Rebels’ gym.
Kyler Warren scored 29 points and had 18 rebounds to lead the Greyhounds (16-10), who play at Saint Anthony in Long Beach in the second round Friday night. The 6-foot-8, 260-pound junior center was 7 of 10 from the field and made 15 of 16 free throws. He also had two blocked shots.
“Kyler had a great game,” AHS head coach Fred Price said. “He has been doing that for us all year.”
Savanna (16-13) didn’t have a player to match up with Warren’s stature, but used its perimeter quickness to employ a half-court trap after falling behind 18-7 in the first quarter to challenge the Greyhounds the remainder of the game.
Atascadero played much of the first half without starting point guard Elijah Cooks, forced to sit with three fouls, and also lost starter Marco Rojas late in the first half with a knee injury. Without Cooks and Rojas, the Rebels chopped a 33-22 deficit to 35-29 at halftime.
“You’ve got to give them (Savanna) credit, every time we got up double digits and started to pull away, they came back at us,” Price said. “We were trying to do too much dribbling (against the trap) in the first half. We were running away from the ball. In the second half, we started passing to it more, which brought them up and we saw 40 (Warren) underneath getting layups and foul shots.
“Elijah had to sit out more than a quarter in the first half and it made a big difference. In the second half, he handled their (Savanna’s) pressure, he got the ball to the right people to allow other guys to score and he broken them down and got to the basket a few times. He gives us more confidence and steadiness.”
Adam Gomez made four straight 3-pointers to boost the Rebels into their only lead of the game, 42-41, with 4:36 remaining.
Lucas Sprouse scored on a drive and Warren made a free throw to put the Greyhounds on top, 44-42. Savanna tied it at 44 on Omar Al Moukdad’s basket.
Levi Williams buried a 3-pointer and Warren’s two free throws elevated Atascadero to a 49-47 advantage. The Greyhounds never trailed from there.
The Greyhounds went on a 9-0 burst on a 15-footer by Williams, a 3-pointer by Williams, an inside basket by Warren and two free throws by Warren for a 67-56 lead with 5:12 to play. Rebels never got closer than three, which came at 79-76 with 30 seconds to pay. Cooks’ free throw with 21.8 remaining and a free throw by Preston Hallett at 10.5 extended the lead as the Rebels missed their final two shots of the game.
Price said playing in the Pac 8 league prepared the Greyhounds for type of game they had to play against Savanna.
“I think a lot of our poise comes from our league,” he said. “A lot of our games are like this. We’ve faced this quite a bit this year—some we’ve lost, some we’ve won. I thought this time we did a nice job handling it better and getting it inside to Kyler Warren. We made enough free throws at the end to keep that spread to two or three possessions.”
Williams, a 6-foot-1 junior, scored 14 points and Trevor Howell, a 6-foot senior had 11. Rojas and Hallett had eight each and Sprouse scored six.
Savanna’s high-flying Romulo Howard, a 6-foot senior guard with explosive quickness and jumping ability and shoots with either hand on his acrobatic moves down the lane, scored 32. Gomez scored 20, making all six of his field goal attempts—five of them 3-pointers—in the second half.
Rojas, a 5-foot-8 senior, scored his eight on 2-of-3 3 pointers and his only 2-point attempt. He stripped the ball from a Savanna guard and raced down court. Rojas collided hard with a Rebel defender trying to score at the basket.
“We’re just going to take it and see where it is tomorrow,” Price said. “He’s about 60 percent. We need him to be higher than that and as you could see early on, he shoots the ball very well and gives us a lot.”