By Steve Breazeale
DANA POINT— With sole possession of first place in the Sea View League on the line the San Clemente boys basketball team looked to their two senior guards to deliver a 64-58 come from behind win over league rival Dana Hills on January 16.
San Clemente seniors Jimmy Bankson and Cody Bean helped erase what was a 23-19 halftime deficit by igniting the Tritons (13-8, 3-0 league) transition offense and hitting clutch 3-pointers down the stretch. Bankson would finish the night with a game high 24 points. Bean scored 16.
With his team down 38-37 to start the fourth quarter, Bean made short work of the Dana Hills (15-5, 2-1) perimeter defenders, knocking down two open 3-pointers as part of an 8-0 Tritons scoring run.
Bankson followed his fellow senior’s lead by delivering a dagger 3-pointer at the 1:50 mark, just when the Dolphins narrowed the Tritons lead to two points. Bankson pulled up from the wing and buried his third and final 3-point shot of the game to give the Tritons a 59-54 advantage.
“(Bean and Bankson) have been huge for us all year. We leaned heavily on our seniors tonight and they came through for us,” San Clemente head coach Marc Popovich said. “Bankson hit a monster three (in the fourth) and they both did a good job of finding each other against (Dana Hills’) zone defense.”
The Dolphins would never recover.
There was a stretch when Dana Hills senior guard Cory Blau was matching Bankson and Bean point for point down the stretch, but the Triton lead was too much for the Dolphins to overcome. Blau scored 11 of his team-high 23 points in the fourth quarter in an attempt to will his team back into it.
Dana Hills controlled most of the first half, thanks in large part to the rebounding efforts of junior forward James Taylor, who grabbed three offensive rebounds, had one block and scored five points in the second quarter alone. Taylor, along with junior forward Jack Clendenen, provided the defense spark that limited a potent Triton offense to just 19 first half points.
But the Tritons adjusted in the second half, using the speed of their guards to increase the tempo, which is the style of play Popovich’s team has adopted as its trademark.
“We did a much better job of blocking off (on rebounds) and that keyed our fast break. Once that happened we started playing at the pace we wanted to play,” Popovich said. “We got 19 (points) at the half. Normally we’ve been getting 19 per quarter, so we really got the pace going and that’s how we won.”