And then there were six.
Now that the Southern Section boys’ basketball playoffs have been pared down to the semifinals, the Inland Empire is left with just a few precious pieces still in the game.
Here’s a rundown:
Of the I.E. teams still playing, the Eagles are by far the most familiar with this time of year. They jumped all over host Valencia in a Division 1AA quarterfinal Tuesday night, scoring the first 10 points en route to 70-58 victory and their fourth straight trip to the section semifinals. Etiwanda, seeded fourth, moves on to play a familiar foe in top-seeded Long Beach Poly. Etiwanda beat the Jackrabbits in the semifinals last season, then lost to them in the Southern California Regionals.
The Big Three carried the Huskies to a 74-58 victory Tuesday against visiting Upland. Dominique Dunning scored 26 points, Michael Caffey had 19 and Gelaun Wheelwright 13 for third-seeded Centennial. The Huskies, who have won 18 consecutive games, will meet second-seeded Mater Dei in the Tuesday’s semifinals at the Anaheim Convention Center. Mater Dei ended the season for Rialto Eisenhower, 82-62.
REDLANDS EAST VALLEY
Another team that appears to be peaking at the right time is the Wildcats. They went to Downey on Tuesday night and had no problem knocking off the fourth-seeded Vikings, 71-54, in a Division 1A quarterfinal. Led by senior point guard Terrell Todd and Pepperdine-bound center Paulin Mpawe, REV has the kind of inside-outside punch that can carry a team in the postseason. The fifth-seeded Wildcats will face a tough test in the semifinals against top-seeded Loyola, however.
The sixth-seeded SkyHawks clawed back from a six-point fourth-quarter deficit in a Division 2AA quarterfinal Tuesday against third-seeded Anaheim Canyon and won, 70-63, to advance to the semifinals for the second straight season. Dorian Cason has been one of the I.E.’s most improved players throughout the season and he finished with 22 points, including 17 in the first half. Cason, a 6-6 senior forward, will be matched against 6-10 senior center Isaac Neilson of Mission Viejo in Friday’s semifinals, which will be hosted by Summit at a to-be-determined neutral site.
The Indians won their second straight playoff game by the score of 49-48 to reach the semifinals in Division 3AA for the second consecutive season. Unlike the second-round game at Arroyo Grande, when second-seeded Palm Springs held on for the victory, the Indians rallied from 12 points down in the fourth quarter against visiting La Habra Sonora. Palm Springs will play third-seeded La Canada in Friday’s semifinals. The game will be played at a neutral site but the Indians have been designated the home team, so it will likely be played somewhere in the desert.
REDLANDS ADVENTIST ACADEMY
The city of Redlands has not one, but two teams in the semifinals. The Bulldogs knocked off Trinity Classical Academy of Valencia, 57-43, in a Division 6A quarterfinal Tuesday. Despite getting out-sized by 6-6 forward James Brooks of first-year Trinity Classical, Kamaal Thomas came through with 17 points and Mikeal Anderson had 14 for third-seeded RAA, which will play second-seeded Boron in Friday’s semifinals.