"There is just no way you're going to win a quarterfinal playoff game by making only three of 16 free throws," said Bell-Jeff Coach Julian Andrade, whose team placed second in the Santa Fe League. "It's just not going to happen. That's the story right there. If we make our free throws, we win the game. Simple as that."
The Guards came out and played well in the early going, jumping out to a 10-3 advantage to begin the game against Capistrano Valley Christian (16-11), which placed third in the San Joaquin League. But two of the Guards' top players, juniors Abid Oses and Clark Thomas, got into early foul trouble in the first, earning two infractions each.
With Oses and Thomas sitting out, Andrade had to go to his bench. That's when the Eagles went on a run. Capistrano Valley Christian embarked on a 20-5 run late in the quarter and ended the stanza with a 23-15 cushion.
"I had no choice but to go to the bench at that point and that's when they were able to make that run on us," Andrade said.
The Guards did play better in the second quarter and were able to cut the deficit to just one at the half, 33-32.
Things remained tight at the end of three quarters, with Capistrano Valley Christian clinging to a two-point advantage, 46-44, heading into the final stanza.
"It was a real see-saw battle back and fourth," Andrade said. "We were able to take the lead a few times after the first quarter, but we just couldn't maintain it."
With Bell-Jeff clinging to a 62-61 lead with 20 seconds left, the Eagles converted a three-pointer that gave them the lead, 64-61. Bell-Jeff had one final possession with seven seconds left, but a turnover extinguished the chance.
The Guards received 19 points, including five three-pointers, from Isaac Etter, while Oses chipped in 11 points.
The Eagles were paced by Cameron Lewis, who had 18 points, and Phillip Webb, who contributed 12 points and 13 rebounds.