The door to the Etiwanda team room swung open shortly after the Eagles defeated visiting El Camino of Oceanside on Tuesday night. Coach Dave Kleckner was met with about a dozen long faces.
Not the typical reponse from players who just posted a 67-58 victory in the first round of the Southern California Regional Division I playoffs, but the Eagles didn't need their coach to inform them how shaky they played down the stretch.
Third-seeded Etiwanda missed seven free throws in the final three minutes, giving El Camino a chance to pull off another upset. A year ago, the Wildcats knocked off fifth-seeded Etiwanda in another first-round game.
"This certainly wasn't our best effort of the season," Kleckner said before entering the hushed team room. "I thought we would have learned a lesson."
Kleckner was referring to the Southern Section Division 1AA championship game three nights earlier, when the Eagles shot four for 10 from the line and lost by three points to Mater Dei.
Fortunately, the Wildcats were in catch-up mode from the start. They fell behind, 29-11, in the second quarter before finishing the first half on a 13-3 run.
El Camino then closed the third quarter with a 17-5 run to cut the deficit to three, but that was as close as they would come, even with Etiwanda's cold free-throw shooting down the stretch.
Tyler LaCour finished with 19 points to lead Etiwanda, which will host Long Beach Poly in the second round Thursday. Byron Wesley and Aaron Crockett contributed 11 points apiece.