Oxnard, Calif. – A berth into the CIF Division 3 state tournament gave the Santa Barbara High boys’ basketball team a chance at redemption following a narrow loss in the semifinals of the CIF-SS Division 3A playoffs.
The 14th-seeded Dons took full advantage of the opportunity, overcoming a 31-20 halftime deficit to claim a 52-50 victory over the No. 3 seed Oxnard on Tuesday night.
“I told them at halftime ‘we’re right where we want to be,’” said Santa Barbara coach Dave Bregante. “Clean it up a little bit and we’ll be fine.”
It was an especially tidy second half for Santa Barbara as Bryce Warrecker established himself as the best player on the court and finished with a game-high 28 points.
“We just didn’t want to end our season like this. It’s big for our seniors to keep going,” Warrecker said. “We love to play basketball so it’s fun.”
Oxnard overwhelmed Santa Barbara with energy and athleticism early in the game as a steal and fast-break dunk by Jaron Waters increased the Yellow Jackets’ lead to 9-4 with 3:56 remaining in the first quarter.
A basket inside by Dominic Brown, followed by a three-pointer by Waters on consecutive possessions to open the second quarter put Oxnard ahead 23-10.
From there, Santa Barbara scored six straight points capped off by a Warrecker three pointer, but Oxnard regained control with an 8-4 run to close the second quarter. Stacy Johnson scored a basket inside just before halftime that increased the Yellow Jackets’ lead to 31-20.
The Dons opened the second half on a 12-4 run erasing the majority of their deficit and setting the stage for a back and forth fourth quarter.
A Warrecker three pointer with 4:48 remaining in the fourth quarter gave Santa Barbara its first lead of the game 44-42.
Oxnard evened the scored at 50-50 on a corner three-pointer by Johnson with 24 seconds remaining, but Warrecker responded with a driving bank shot that gave Santa Barbara a 52-50 lead with 5.2 seconds remaining.
We knocked down a good shot and played good defense at the end,” Warrecker said. “It was a good game.”
Waters attempted a deep thee-pointer as the final buzzer sounded that fell well short and the Dons celebrated their victory
Stephen Davis and Jackson Hamilton chipped in eight points apiece for Santa Barbara. Johnson finished with a team-high 18 points for Oxnard, including four three pointers.
Santa Barbara will travel to Crescenta Valley for a second round game on Thursday at 7 p.m.