By Ted Apodaca
Santiago High’s boys basketball team edged out Pacifica, 62-56, in the season opener for both teams in a non-league game at Ocean View High on Saturday.
The game went back-and-fourth most of the way, but it was the Cavaliers who pulled away in the final minutes to get the victory.
Andrew Brown scored on a driving layup to cut the Santiago’s lead to 57-56, with just over two minutes left in the game. Pacifica missed two three-point shot attempts that would have given them the lead. Santiago was running down the clock, when they were fouled with 8 seconds left on the shot clock.
That foul reset the shot clock with just 44 seconds left in the game. Santiago again worked the clock, this time getting a three-pointer from Chris Bermudez with 16 seconds left to push the lead to 62-56.
Pacifica got off to a strong start, taking an early lead before Santiago rallied to take a lead. But the Mariners regained momentum and took a 32-31 lead into halftime. Santiago regained the lead and led 46-43 at the end of the third quarter.
Brown opened the fourth quarter with a baseline three-pointer that tied the game at 46-46.
Santiago took a 50-46 lead before Brown scored on a baseline driving layup to cut the lead to 50-48. Isaias Luna answered with a baseline drive and shot off the glass of his own to push Santiago’s lead to 52-48.
When Pacifica’s Joshua Handley was fouled and hit a free throw, Santiago led just 55-54 with 3:44 left in the game. But Ricky Briseno answered with a jump shot that pushed the lead to 57-54, setting up the final exchange.
Bermudez led Santiago with 13, while Briseno had 11 points. Reno Bond-Zotea added 10 points. Brown led Pacifica with 17, while Tyler Fabisiak and Paulo Zubillaga had 14 each.
Pacifica is looking to improve upon a 5th place finish in the Empire League last year. Head coach David Friedman said the Mariners have potential but said they didn’t play with any identity in their season opener.
“We didn’t play the way we want to play,” Friedman said.
Friedman said mistakes on defense were key in them not getting past Santiago. He said defensive break downs late in the shot clock were particularly harmful. Friedman he likes the teams’ effort and said that they should improve quickly. He said, outside shooting, particularly three-pointers, has been a strength for the team and said it should help open up defenses.
“This team hits [shots],” Friedman said.
Santiago finished second in the Garden Grove League last year, but is rebuilding with a new coach and no returning starters from last year. Matt Moorhouse came over from Tustin High to take over the program. His son, Isiah Moorhouse, a transfer from Tustin, is the only player who had varsity starting experience.
Still, Moorhouse said the team worked hard in the summer leagues and has picked up the new system quickly and enthusiastically.
“I’m really excited because they bought in,” Moorhouse said.