June 25, 2024

OC Sports Zone: Community First

Santa Ana holds on for victory over California in consolation round tournament game

Santa Ana players celebrate Friday’s victory over California. (Photo: Tim Burt, OC Sports Zone).

It looked like Santa Ana High School’s boys basketball team would coast to a consolation round victory over California of Whittier Friday night in the Santa Ana Varsity Tournament.

The Saints built a 16-point lead in the second half and led 50-38 going into the final stanza. But California battled back and went on a 11-0 run to start the fourth quarter to get back into the contest.

Santa Ana regrouped, finished strong and held on for a 70-65 victory for its first win of the season in three outings. The Saints’ Jack Rivera, coming off a 32-point effort in a loss to University Thursday, poured in 30 points, 20 in the first half. He fouled out late in the game, but his teammates were able to close out the win.

“We wanted to win, we were coming off 0-2 and I feel it just lit a fire in every single one of us and the willingness to compete and play hard and fight until the very end,” Rivera said. “I’m proud of every single one of us.”

In the final stretch, Isaac Alvarez, who had 10 points, had a big steal and bucket to put the Saints ahead 66-61 and Osten Ochmad sank two free throws in the final seconds to clinch the win. Ochmad finished with 17 points.

“Osten hit huge, huge free throws that sealed the deal, he stayed composed, he’s experienced, he knows what it takes to play at this level and I’m super, super proud of him, that’s player of the game right there,” Rivera said.

Santa Ana Coach Zach Johnson was pleased his squad was able to finish strong against a California team that refused to fold. Several Saints also got in foul trouble in the fourth quarter. California, coached by former Saddleback Coach Joel Simonds, was led by Luke Sanchez, who had 25 points and made 15 points in the final quarter.

“I’m just proud of our guys for battling through and battling through adversity and being able to come out on top,” Johnson said. “California is a really good basketball team and they run a lot of really good stuff but I’m just really proud of our guys for how they battled through adversity. Coach Simonds does a great job and it’s always fun when we get to play against each other.

“Osten is a competitor, knocking down free throws at the end of the game to ice it was big. Isaac (who had the late steal and score) is a first-year varsity guy, we’ve been kind of waiting for him to come out of his shell and I think tonight was the night.”

Johnson was also pleased to see Rivera, who rebounded and defended well, produce again.

“Jack is just a competitor,” Johnson said. “Any time we play, no matter who it is, he’s out there ready to compete.”

Santa Ana meets Segerstrom Saturday at 9:30 a.m. at Santa Ana to wrap up the tourney.

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