Saturday, March 3, 2012

El Camino falls, 71-53 in CCS championship game, but comes away with school pride

El Camino's Anthony Knight tries to drive past Sacred Heart Cathedral's Herman Pratt in the first quarter of the CIF-Central Coast Section Division III championship game Saturday at Santa Clara University. Photo by John Baker.
From CCS Chamipionship game

After opening its doors in 1961, it took 51 years for El Camino High School to earn its first league championship and get to its first Central Coast Section boys basketball championship game. After Saturday, the Colts are raring to get right back next season.

Despite being significant underdogs to top-seeded Sacred Heart Cathedral of San Francisco, who play in the powerful West Catholic Athletic League, El Camino came into Saturday night's Central Coast Section Division III championship game with high hopes.

Those hopes were dashed, as the Irish (ranked 14th in the state by took advantage of a sluggish El Camino second quarter to win the championship, 71-53, at Santa Clara University.

Coach Archie Junio (right), who took over the program again this season after coaching the Colts in the early 2000s, will get serious consideration for CCS basketball coach of the year after leading El Camino -- which had never gotten past the quarterfinals -- to a championship game and state playoff berth.

"It was the (SHC) guards shooting lights out," Junio said. "We were banking on them missing some shots, but they weren't missing many shots, especially from the outside."

The Colts were handicapped by playing without starting point guard Elijah White, who was suspended for unrevealed reasons. El Camino could have used his nearly 16 points per game average and floor leadership.

"We didn't have the full force of our arsenal," Junio said. "And even with Elijah, who knows? We needed to be clicking on all cylinders and we weren't -- especially defensively."

Sacred Heart Cathedral coach Darrell Barbour, who had faced a weaker El Camino many times when he coached Woodside, said the El Camino players will always remember this year, regardless of the final result. Barbour should know, as his Irish have made the finals five straight years.

"It never gets old, it can't," he said. "It's just a blessing for these kids to have this experience. I tell them all the time to be humble about everything that happens to us because not every high school kid gets this opportunity."

Indeed it was a special year for El Camino's sports programs.

"We won our league in football, we won our league in basketball," Junio said. "It was just overall a great year thus far for the entire school and the population."

Colts football coach Mark Turner, who also assists Junio on the basketball squad, says more will come for El Camino.

"As far as I'm concerned, we've always been the best school in the city of South San Francisco," Turner said. "We haven't been the winning-ist program, but we're building. It's an everyday process."

For Sacred Heart, the win was the school's third CCS championship just on Saturday, as the Irish won titles in boys soccer and girls basketball earlier.

El Camino still has at least one more game in the State basketball tournament. Pairings will be released late Sunday on the California Interscholastic Federation's website.

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