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Dana Hills sophomore Collin Haugh was the deciding factor Wednesday night, Feb. 8, as his four 3-pointers in the final quarter helped his team escape a late rally from Valley Christian of Cerritos in a 70-67 home win.
The opening round of CIF-Southern Section Division 2A play featured a fast-paced game that saw the Dolphins build what seemed to be comfortable leads before Valley Christian (17-11) stormed back.
That included a nine-point Defenders flurry after Dana Hills (19-8) went up 65-54 and a quick four-point play that momentarily tensed up the home gym, cutting Dolphins’ lead to 69-67 with just a few seconds remaining.
Dolphins head coach Tom Desiano credited the Defenders and junior point guard Jacob Bayla (34 points), but he pointed to his team’s resiliency as what led them to the victory.
“We always came back, we always had an answer, and that doesn’t always happen,” Desiano said.
Haugh (22 points) had a hot-and-cold start to the game. He missed all four 3-point attempts but showed touch from midrange for seven first-half points, while senior Cole Davison shouldered the load with 15.
Valley Christian took the first quarter, 15-13, as point guard TJ Waters tallied four assists. Midway through the second, Dana Hills started to take control and held a 32-25 lead going into the locker room.
The third quarter was where Bayla made his hay. After the Dolphins’ margin increased to 10, Bayla single-handedly kept Valley Christian close by driving to the basket en route to 15 points in the frame.
Desiano attributed Bayla’s outburst to his talent and to his own players’ foul trouble that left his bench vulnerable.
“What we did down the stretch (was), we went to our 2-3 zone to keep them (out of the paint),” he said. “Down to the last two and a half minutes of the game, they couldn’t get to the basket anymore.”
Both teams switched their defensive approaches in the game’s latter stages, with Dana Hills using a zone defense and Valley Christian a press. The press forced turnovers for Dana Hills that allowed the Defenders to hang around.
The margin stayed close to six points from the third quarter into the fourth, but clutch buckets from Haugh and Dennis Powers lifted it to an 11-point lead before Valley Christian’s last surge.
Desiano said Haugh carried the Dolphins down the stretch with his ability to get lost within the zone defense and emerge open for catch-and-shoot threes.
“We look to him in those spots, and then when he doesn’t have it, he’s willing to feed it (to others), too,” Desiano said. “He makes us go, and he’s got that drive, that killer instinct to (say), ‘Hey, look, I want the shot when it’s available. I can make the shot when it’s available.’ ”
The Dolphins advanced to host No. 2 seed Pacifica Christian (20-8) in the second round on Friday, Feb. 10, after the Tritons defeated Portola, 64-52, on Wednesday.
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