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Wednesday, February 22, 2012
I.E.: Boys' basketball playoffs

By Dan Arritt

   Another solid night for Inland Empire boys’ basketball teams in the Southern Section playoffs. Here’s a quick rundown of a few highlights:

  *Upland, seeded No. 12 in Division 1AA, is the lowest-seeded team to slip through to the final eight, joining No. 3 Etiwanda and No. 7 Eisenhower from the I.E.

   *Vista Murrieta and Corona, seeded 10th and 11th in Division 1A, also made it through to the final eight as the lowest remaining seeds in that bracket.

   *In Division 2AA, a couple big-time upsets have left No. 8 Riverside Poly and No. 12 Cajon as the highest-seeded teams remaining in the top half of that bracket. One of these teams has a good chance to make the final as a longshot coming into the playoffs.

   *Palm Desert, seeded fourth in Division 3AAA, is in a similar position after Arroyo Grande knocked off top-seeded Damien in a quarterfinal, and the Aztecs then benefited from a key coin flip that will allow them to host a semifinal Friday night.

   Here’s a closer look the award winners from Tuesday night.

Biggest upset: Like most of the teams in the Big VIII League this season, Corona took its lumps along the way, finishing 7-7 and tied for fifth out of eight teams. The Panthers have found the competition more to their liking in the Division 1A playoffs, however, and they advanced to the quarterfinals with an 80-62 victory against sixth-seeded Aliso Niguel. Corona took advantage of some hot outside shooting early in the game by Marcos Hazelwood and Nolan Kelly. Each hit a pair of three-pointers in the opening quarter to help the Panthers to an eight-point lead and they stretched it to 17 by the half. Corona, one of three Big VIII League teams still alive, will travel to third-seeded Orange Lutheran for Friday’s quarterfinals.

Runner up: On first glance, Vista Murrieta’s one-point victory at Chino Hills in a Division 1A second rounder doesn’t stand out as an upset. After all, the Broncos came in seeded 10th and Chino Hills seventh. But anyone who watched the Huskies beat Vista Murrieta by 20 points seven weeks earlier, in the same gym, was probably surprised they were watching the same teams. The Broncos have obviously improved since then and, for their efforts, earned a quarterfinal home game Friday night against second-seeded Capistrano Valley. That might be the loudest that gym has ever been.

Best individual performance: Elsinore looked like it might have a tough match up against Compton Dominguez in the second round of the Division 2A playoffs, but E.J. Twyman, a 6-1 senior point guard, led an offensive change that added up to an 88-66 victory. Twyman had 30 points and eight assists for the fifth-seeded Tigers, who advanced to play at fourth-seeded Leuzinger in Friday’s quarterfinals. Leuzinger beat Elsinore by four points at a Martin Luther King Day showcase last month in Playa del Rey.

Runner up: J.W. North sophomore point guard Deshon Taylor was standing where he’s most comfortable, at the free throw line late in a game. Taylor made all 10 of his free throws and scored 24 points against host Temecula Valley, helping the third-seeded Huskies pull out a 66-46 victory in a Division 2AA second rounder. Taylor is the most efficient free-throw shooter in the state, converting 99 of 110 attempts this season (90 percent). The Huskies travel to Sunny Hills in Fullerton for their quarterfinal game Friday.

Best comeback: Trailing by three points after a three-point basket by Andrew Bourne of Rancho Verde with just over two minutes remaining in a Division 1AA second-round game, Eisenhower clamped down on defense and held the Mustangs scoreless the rest of the way. Marvelle Harris gave the Eagles the lead for good when he scored on a driving layup with 13 seconds remaining and they held on for the 51-50 victory. Harris scored 30 points for Eisenhower, which will travel to second-seeded Long Beach Poly for Friday’s quarterfinals.

Runner up: Palm Desert finished its Division 3AAA quarterfinal game against host Tustin on a 9-0 run en route to winning, 49-44. Robert Romero, a 6-5 senior forward, scored 18 points for the Aztecs and 6-3 senior guard Jonathan Serven had 16, including 11 in the final quarter. Palm Desert won a coin flip to host Arroyo Grande in the semifinals Friday, saving them a round trip of 600 miles.