By Jim Tortolano
Garden Grove High’s boys’ basketball team made the free throws in the clutch and made history as well Friday night as the Argonauts defeated University High of Irvine 69-66 in a CIF-SS Division 4AA game before a packed house at its home gym.
With the win, the Argos (now 20-9) advance to a semifinal game against Sunny Hills on Tuesday. The Lancers beat Ontario Christian 63-51 to advance to the final four. For Grove, it’s the first trip to basketball semifinals since the school opened in 1921.
Did Argo coach Brian Girard expect to be in such rarified heights at the beginning of the season? “At the beginning of the year? No way, no way,” he said. “But they’ve gotten better every day and I’m very proud of them.”
Garden Grove led through most of the game and had a lead of as much as eight points – 45-37 – midway through the third quarter. Vidal Jimenez’ five three-pointers fueled much of the red-and-white’s advantage.
But the Trojans, taking advantage of offensive rebounding that resulted in several put-back baskets after misses, roared back and knotted the game at 48-all with 1:01 to play in the quarter, and from there built a 54-48 lead early in the fourth.
But, as they have done all season, the Argonauts did not yield to the pressure of the moment. Midway through the quarter, Grove chipped away. A basket by Landon Mendoza tied it at 59-all and Steven Vu followed with clutch free throws to give the Argos a 62-59 edge.
Miguel Ortega, the Argo center who led much of the comeback, hit six of seven free throws in the closing minutes before he fouled out with Grove holding a 68-66 lead with 23.2 seconds left to play.
But Uni’s Christian DeBarge missed two free throws and Mendoza hit one, and the Argos grabbed the rebound and held on for the win.
Jimenez led the Argos with 20 points, followed by Ortega with 17 and Allen Abarca with 10. The top scorers for University (14-17) were Ali Wahedi with 16 points and DeBarge with 15.
For a team that has thrived on tight games and dramatic comebacks, was this just business as usual for the coach? “I admit I was little tight on this one, especially when Miguel fouled out,” said Girard. “But I knew we were capable of it. We’ve done this a million times. This is our seventh, eighth one, now? Our guys responded and they did it again tonight.”
CIF-SS BOYS’ BASKETBALL QUARTERFINALS RESULTS
- Edison 57, Pacific Christian 54
- St Pius IX-St. Matthias 63, Orangewood 42
- Western 57, St. Monica Catholic 47
- Garden Grove 69, Irvine 66
Categories: High school sports