May 17, 2024

OC Sports Zone: Community First

PHOTOS: Santa Ana rallies but falls in OT against Villanova Prep in CIF playoff thriller

Santa Ana senior Xavier Valdovinos, who helped lead the Saints fourth quarter comeback, deals with the overtime loss. (Photos: OC Sports Zone, Fernando M. Donado).

Santa Ana High School’s boys basketball team battled back from a 16-point second-half deficit to send the game into overtime but could not complete the task Friday night, falling to Villanova Prep from Ojai 66-64 in the quarterfinals of the CIF 5AA playoffs in the Saints gym.

Santa Ana’s Deaven Perez sank a clutch 3-pointer at the buzzer ending regulation to tie the game 62-62 creating a massive celebration in the Santa Ana student section. But Villanova Prep regrouped and held on in overtime to advance into the semifinals Tuesday. Santa Ana had a couple chances to tie the game again on its final possession but could not convert.

Trailing by three, Saints Coach Fareed ElMasry though Perez, who finished with 16 points, was the best option for the 3-pointer at the end of regulation.

To see the slide show, click on the first photo:

“We were running out of timeouts, and he took it upon himself to put the weight of the team on his shoulders,” ElMasry said. “We were really proud of him in that moment.

“I think we were down by as many as 16 and it was great to see how they just persevered and never gave up.”

Villanova Prep seemed to be in control with a 30-20 halftime lead and a nine-point lead going into the final stanza before Santa Ana came charging back.

“Putting us in that hole is a little bit hard,” ElMasry said. “Had we not gotten off to a slow start we might be having a different conversation right now.”

Santa Ana (17-10) got a strong effort from Xavier Valdovinos, who led the Saints with 23 points, eight in the final quarter to help Santa Ana get back into the game.

“Xavier played his heart out,” ElMasry said. “He loves playing here, he’s a four-year varsity guy and he really stepped up tonight in a big way. We don’t come back from that deficit without him.”

Villanova Prep (19-8) was led by Shawn Tuano who had 29 points and Diesel Lowe, who had 20 points. Gavin Day had nine points and Slayde Lowe eight points.

First year coach Kyle Poe said he was proud of his squad, which started out the season 0-4 and had the start of practice delayed by a month due to COVID-protocol.

“We’ve been through a lot this year, starting in late October, and starting 0-4 during the season, we’re 18-4 since and these boys have worked their tails off and they’ve made me a better coach throughout the way,” Poe said.

“It’s been a heck of a ride, and I can’t thank them enough, the support of our fans and families. Kudos to them (his players), I can’t believes the efforts they’ve had and their focus after starting out 0-4 and being in the final four.

“Shawn Tuano is our captain, he goes, we go. It’s great to have senior leadership and lead us in playoff games like this.”

Santa Ana also got strong efforts from Ronnie Brewer, who scored nine points and Jack Rivera and Emmanuel Lemus, who had eight points each.

—Tim Burt, OC Sports Zone; timburt@ocsportszone.com