SALINAS — Jerod Stewart felt past postseason efforts and a Gabilan Division boys basketball title warranted a higher seed for Salinas.
Perhaps playing with a chip on their shoulder, the Cowboys went out and put on a defensive exhibition Saturday in taming hot shooting Fremont 64-42 in the Central Coast Section Division I basketball playoffs.
Salinas held the Firebirds to eight points over the first 14:32 of the second half, turning a four-point halftime lead into a 26-point cushion before emptying his bench with 2:28 left in the game.
“The kids were unselfish and executed the game plan,” said Stewart, who guided Salinas to its first league title since 2001. “We stepped up our defense. The adjustment in the second half is we pressured their two shooters and helped on the dribble drive.”
Seeded No. 6 in the dance, the Cowboys (18-8) will visit No. 2 seed Los Gatos (19-5) Tuesday at 7 p.m. in the quarterfinals.
The Cowboys, who beat Fremont 54-42 in last year’s second round, held the Firebirds to six points in the third quarter and two through the first 5:32 of the fourth quarter, taking away the perimeter.
“We knew going into the game that Fremont would come out shooting,” Stewart said. “They were quick. We had to be real good on defense. We needed to feel for the opponent in the first half.”
Point guard Nolan Borel, who had been battling the flu all week, lead four players in double figures with Salinas with 14 points.
“Nolan gave us a ton of energy,” Stewart said. “So did Marcus Hernandez off the bench. The kid never complains. He gave us a big boast offensively in the third quarter.”
Stewart was talking about Fernandez nailing four 3-point goals, finishing with 12 points. Kyle Ajeska added 11, while Trevor McKinley tallied 10. Isaiah Regalado pulled down 13 rebounds.
Palma 75, Harbor 25: Drew Molinari led three players in double digits with 15 points as the Chieftains opened up the Division IV playoffs with a 50-point win.
The win catapults Palma into the quarterfinals, where it will visit No. 4 seed and Gabilan Division rival Carmel. The two teams split their head-to-head meetings, with the Chieftains posting a 57-53 win at home on February 3rd.
“We have to match their (Carmel’s) physicality,” Palma coach Kelley Lopez said. “We did that in the game here. But not so much over there. How can we prepare over the next couple of days for that? The kids are committed to that.”
Palma, who played in the CCS Division IV title game last year, erupted for its second highest point total of the season, while allowing the least number of points in a game this year.
“We played solid,” Lopez said. “We moved the ball a lot better tonight then we had been. When you do that, you’re in a better rhythm and that translates to better shots.”
Blake Hoffman added 14 points for Palma (12-13), while freshman call-up Cesar Mercado finished with 10.
Scotts Valley 61, Stevenson 56: Despite a double-double from Audon Forgus, the No. 6 seeded Pirates were eliminated from the Division IV playoffs by No. 11 Scotts Valley.
Forgus finished with 19 points and 14 rebounds for Stevenson (17-8). Trent Toole added 12 points and five assists, while Parker Lynch finished with 10 points and five steals.
Harker 61, Marina 52: The magic ran out on the Mariners record breaking season, falling in the second round of the Division IV playoffs to Harker of Sunnyvale.
Marina, who won its first postseason game in 12 years on Friday, set a single-season school record with 17 wins in their 17th season.
Kareem Allen collected 22 points, 20 rebounds and five blocks for the Mariners. Jordan Webb finished with 16 points, while Khalik Kennedy added six points and 11 rebounds and Miguel Cano six points.
Terra Nova 59, Pacific Grove 48: Trailing by just one to open the fourth quarter, the Breakers couldn’t recreate the magic from the night before, falling in the second round of the Division IV playoffs.
Having advanced into the second round after a win over Kipp of San Jose on Friday, Pacific Grove was on a bus 12 hours later for a road trip to Daly City, where it ran into the No. 8 seed.
Senior Dilbar Dhaliwal led Pacific Grove in his final game with 16 points, while freshman Gabe Valencia gave Powers a peak into the future with nine points.
Having missed the postseason last year after a run of 31 straight trips, the Breakers won their last two Mission Division games to reach .500 and return to the playoffs, finishing 12-14.
Saratoga 83, Soledad 36: Finding that energy less than 24 hours after one of their biggest wins of the year failed to materialize as the Aztecs saw their season come to a halt in the Division III playoffs.
Despite starting league play 0-8, Soledad went 2-2 down the stretch to sneak into the playoffs, knocking off south county rival King City Friday to extends its season.
Sophomore Pablo Morales provided glimpses of the future, leading the Aztecs (10-15 overall) with 16 points.
Terra Nova 45, Pacific Grove 35: Despite 22 points and 17 rebounds from Ava Marshall, Mission Division champion Pacific Grove fell in the second round of the Division IV playoffs to No. 8 seed Terra Nova.
The Breakers, who came into the game as the No. 9 seed at 14-8, battled back from an early first half deficit to tie the game at 27 to start the fourth quarter.
“Slow start,” said Pacific Grove coach Robin Lewis, who guided the program to its first league title in 11 years. “We came back to tie the game. But turnovers in the fourth quarter killed us.”
Melanie Martinez finished with eight points and five rebounds for Pacific Grove, while Savannah Hardy pulled down six boards in the team’s season finale.
York 75, Oakwood 46: Quincy Key dropped in a career and county high 41 points as the Arroyo Division champion Falcons improved to 12-1 after ousting Oakwood in the Division V second round.
Key, who has a swimming scholarship to San Jose State, is averaging over 28 points a game this year for York. Asya Wilson chipped in with 12 points for the Falcons, who will visit No. 3 seed Castilleja (9-11) of Palo Alto on Tuesday.
Alisal 58, Fremont 46: Freshman Nayeli Gil Silva poured in 18 points as the Trojans opened the Division I tournament with a win over Fremont, improving to 17-6 on the season.
Greenfield 55, Soquel 54: Yasmin Avalos tied the game with a basket, then sank the game winner with 4.1 seconds left to lift the Bruins to their first postseason win since 2003.
The win earns the Cypress Division champions a trip to No. 2 seed Santa Cruz on Tuesday in the Division III quarterfinals.
Soquel, who knocked off Seaside Friday to advance, overcame a 36-19 halftime deficit to take a brief lead late in the game before Greenfield turned to Avalos for her dramatics.
Latai Matelau led a balanced assault for Greenfield with 15 points, while Avalos scored 14 and Lesley Santiago 10.
Soledad 48, Del Mar 35: Katherine Amaro scored 17 points as the Aztecs upset Del Mar 48-35 in the Division III playoffs to extend their season.
Kala Vasquez finished with nine points and Aliyah Gonzales had seven for Soledad, who has won six straight games, improving to 13-10 overall.
San Lorenzo Valley 61, Carmel 60: Abby Shipnuck had a triple-double with 23 points, 11 steals and 10 assists in Padres heartbreaking one-point loss to San Lorenzo Valley in the second round of the Division IV playoffs.
Delaney Castagna dropped in 21 points, and added 14 rebounds and eight blocks for Carmel, while Ellie Rydeheard finished with 14 points.
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