Road to the CIF Playoffs: Boys Basketball
Having lost nine seniors to graduation, head coach Daniel Dunbar knew he had a younger group with some big shoes to fill as the curtain opened on the 2022-2023 boys basketball.
“I'm excited for our group to get in there and compete against arguably one of the best leagues in the country. But I think we have the makeup and the camaraderie this year to really have an impact and surprise some teams. I think we stack up well with our size and athleticism, and even though we're a little bit younger, I think we could definitely do some damage in the Trinity League.”
It turns out that Dunbar’s confidence in his group would come to fruition.
OLu jumped out of the gate in back-to-back preseason tourneys. At the Rumble for Rosecrans, OLu went 4-1 and finished 3rd with key wins over Damien and Rolling Hills Prep.
At the Diablo Inferno tourney, OLu placed as the runner-up, going 3-1 and falling to Fairmont Prep by a point in the finals. The Lancers entered Trinity League play with a 10-4 overall record.
After splitting their first two league games, OLu had their defining moment. At home, in front of a raucous crowd, the Lancers took down Mater Dei 80-72. The win was only the second time in school history that the Lancers had knocked off the Monarchs.
That win started a stretch of 5 victories in 6 games, including back-to-back-to-back Trinity League wins over JSerra, Santa Margarita, and Servite. That run helped the Lancers move to #1 in Orange County, ranked by the OC Register.
Despite a 3-game-losing streak to end the regular season, the Lancers finished 3rd in the Trinity League and had a 16-10 record as they headed into the Division 2AA CIF Playoffs.
CIF Round 1 vs. Aliso Niguel
OLu didn't waste any time taking care of business in the CIF playoff opener against Aliso Niguel.
The Lancers jumped out to an 8-point first-quarter lead and never looked back, winning 69-52.
OLu used the deep ball to build the lead as they were on fire from downtown hitting six first half 3's and ending with seven total. Zion Paleo led all scorers with 14 points. John Gazzaniga and David Manea each finished with 12 points a piece.
The Lancers drew Edison in the 2nd round.
CIF Round 2 vs. Edison
The OLu boys basketball team outlasted Edison 60-59 in the second round of the CIF Division 2AA playoffs to advance to the quarterfinals. But it took an all-around team effort to advance.
It was a back-and-forth affair from the outset, with the Lancers leading by one at the end of the first and two at the half. In the 3rd, OLu surged, hitting three 3-pointers in the quarter and extending the lead to 7 heading into the final quarter. David Manea, who was held scoreless in the first half, came up big, scoring 10 of his 12 points in the 3rd.
But Edison charged back to within 2 points late in the 4th when sophomore guard Zion Paleo had the play of the game. With under a minute to play and after a missed layup, Edison rebounded and was headed down the court to tie or take the lead when Paleo tipped the ball, stole it, and laid it in for a 4-point lead that would not be relinquished.
Those 2 points were part of his team-high 22. Javon Smith was silky smooth from downtown, hitting three triples and ending with 11.
The win booked a quarterfinal appearance against #4 seed Rancho Cucamonga.
CIF Quarterfinals vs. Rancho Cucamonga
The OLu boys basketball team beat Rancho Cucamonga 75-69 to secure their first CIF Semifinals trip since 2014-15.
The Lancers dominated the Cougars from the outset jumping out to an 8-point first-quarter lead and a 13-point halftime advantage. Zion Paleo was the catalyst scoring 13 first-half points and finishing with 17.
Out of the break, OLu left no doubt, going up by 22 points 3 minutes into the half. The Cougars closed the gap late, but it was too little too late.
In addition to Paleo, three others scored in double figures. Cannon Potter had 14, David Manea had 13, and Andrew Nagy had 12, including five free throws in the final frame.
The Lancers will host #1 seed Oxnard on Friday, February 17, in the semifinals.
CIF Semifinals vs Oxnard
A 30-point first quarter sent the Lancers flying into the CIF Finals, beating Oxnard 70-49 on Friday night.
OLu went 4 of 5 from downtown in the 1st, with four different Lancers hitting threes. The Yellowjackets never got closer than ten, as the Lancers never looked back in the victory.
They again used a balanced attack with four players in double figures. Zion Paleo led OLu with 18, John Gazzaniga had 15, Andrew Nagy scored 13 off the bench, and Cannon Potter punched in 10 with 7 in the 30-point 1st.
The Lancers head to their first CIF championship berth since the 2011-2012 team that capped a back-to-back championship.
CIF Finals vs Tesoro
In a battle of Orange County teams, Tesoro outlasted Orange Lutheran 54-35 in front of a capacity crowd at Edison High School in the CIF-SS Division 2AA Finals on Saturday night.
Cannon Potter led OLu with 16 points on the night, including three triples. The Lancers led by two points at the halftime break, 25-23. However, the Titans came out hot in the second half, and their defense stymied the Lancers attack. After leading by four going to the 4th, OLu couldn't get it going in the 4th and eventually fell to the Titans.
Despite the loss, the Lancers had a tremendous run to the CIF-SS Finals. OLu beat Aliso Niguel, Edison, Rancho Cucamonga, and Oxnard en route to Saturday night. The boys are 20-11 overall and have played in their first CIF Final since 2012.
They are not done yet, as they will take part in the CIF State Tournament that begins on Tuesday night.
CIF State Round 1 vs Stockdale
The Lancer boys basketball team dominated from start to finish against Stockdale on Tuesday night, winning 78-54 to move on in the CIF State Tournament.
Coming off a heartbreaking loss in the CIF Finals on Saturday night, the Lancers responded in a big way on Tuesday. They jumped out to a 16-point lead after one quarter and a 22-point lead to the break.
OLu used a balanced attack, with 3 Lancers scoring in double figures. John Gazzaniga had a team-high 17 points, while Zion Paleo had 15 and Andrew Nagy 14.
The boys will meet St. Pius X-St. Matthias Academy in round 2 at home on Thursday night.
CIF State Round 2 vs St. Pius X - St. Matthias Academy
It came down to the final minute, but OLu boys basketball defeated St. Pius X-St. Matthias Academy 66-64 in Round 2 of the CIF State Tournament on Thursday to advance to the quarterfinals.
The Lancers roared out to a 29-17 lead by the end of the first quarter. But St. Pius X-St. Matthias Academy outscored OLu 27-11 in the second frame to shrink the Lancers’ lead to just 44-40 at the half.
By the end of the third quarter, St. Pius X-St. Matthias Academy had taken the lead 55-53, as they outscored OLu 15-9.
But the Lancers remained focused, and with less than a minute remaining, senior David Manea netted the winning basket to send OLu to the next round.
Manea had 18 points on the night. Sophomore Zion Paleo scored 16, and junior Andrew Nagy had 10 points.
OLu will face Tesoro in the CIF State Regional Quarterfinal on Saturday night. The game will be a rematch of the CIF-SS Division 2AA championship that saw Tesoro beat the Lancers 54-35. Tip-off is at 7:00 pm at Tesoro.
CIF State Quarterfinal vs Tesoro
OLu got their rematch against Tesoro Saturday night in the CIF State Regional Semifinals, the same team that beat them in the CIF-SS Championship game just a week earlier. This time, the Lancers emerged victorious with a 51-50 win over the Titans to advance to the CIF State Regional Final game.
OLu had a strong first half and led 27-15 by the end of the second quarter. But Tesoro pushed back and came within one point of the Lancers in the game's final minute.
With four seconds to go, Tesoro inbounded the ball and drove to the net, but missed the shot, giving OLu the down-to-the-wire victory.
Sophomore point guard Zion Paleo led the Lancers with 18 points on the night. Fellow sophomore John Gazzaniga had 13 points, including eight in the third quarter. Senior David Manea had 10 points, nine of which came in the second half.
OLu’s season continues as the Lancers will play in the CIF Division II State Regional Finals at home against Pacifica Christian on March 7 at 7 pm.
CIF State Regional Final vs Pacifica Christian
Orange Lutheran's late rally fell just short in a 52-51 loss to Pacifica Christian in the CIF State Regional Final on Tuesday night.
In front of a capacity crowd, the Lancers and the Tritons fought for a spot in the CIF State Final in Sacramento on Saturday afternoon.
The Lancers were fighting from behind for most of the evening. Down 15-8 in the first quarter, OLu finished the quarter on a 6-0 run to close the gap to 2. At halftime, the Tritons had extended that lead back up to 7, 32-25.
Out of the break, they widened that lead to 13 when OLu took a timeout to regroup. And regroup they did. Over the next minute, the Lancers hit three consecutive 3-pointers, the first one by junior Andrew Nagy and then back-to-back by senior Javon Smith. The deficit was cut to 4, and the sprint to the finish was on.
It went back and forth throughout the final quarter, and OLu took the lead with just over 90 seconds left when Cannon Potter made a free throw to make it 51-50. After the Tritons took the lead back, 52-51, they had a free throw opportunity with 9 seconds left that was missed. OLu called a timeout to set up a final shot with 4 seconds remaining. Zion Paelo's shot was blocked, ending the game.
Potter led OLu with 14 points, and Paleo had 11.
OLu finishes the season with a record of 23-12 and a runner-up finish in the CIF-SS and the CIF State Regional brackets.
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