Cougars clinch Southeast title with win over Falcons

The boys basketball program at Coronado hasn’t had many opportunities to celebrate a league title.

But when the No. 6 Cougars were presented with the chance to whoop it up on Monday, they politely declined.

“Nothing to celebrate yet,” Coronado coach Jeff Kaufman said, “but I’m really proud of them, and I’m happy for them.”

Matt Johnson and Nick Kornieck finished with 17 points apiece, and host Coronado clinched the Southeast League championship with a 70-60 victory over No. 5 Foothill.

It is the first league title since 2011 for the Cougars (15-4, 9-0 Southeast) and their third overall.

“Our kids love to beat Foothill. They’re a great team, and a great rival,” Kaufman said. “Winning the division meant a lot, but our goal was to go undefeated, and we haven’t achieved that yet. We have one to go. And our goal is to get to the state (tournament).”

Johnson and Kornieck combined for 29 points in the first half as Coronado built a 24-point advantage in the second quarter. The Cougars led by 17 points late in the third quarter before Foothill (20-5, 7-2) rallied as senior center Torrance Littles took advantage inside when Travis Boman and Kornieck fouled out midway through the fourth quarter.

Littles banked in a short turnaround jumper to cut Coronado’s lead to 63-56 with 1:54 remaining, and his putback basket with 1:00 to go brought the Falcons to within 65-60. Bryce Savoy and Braden Van Alfen each went 2-for-2 from the free-throw line in the final 50 seconds as the Cougars held on.

Coronado was 10-for-13 from the foul line in the fourth quarter and 20-for-26 overall.

“We were happy with the win, but we weren’t happy with the way we finished the game,” Kaufman said. “And we don’t think that’s what will get it done when we get into the playoffs in a week.”

Littles had 14 points in the fourth quarter and finished with 20 points and 10 rebounds to lead Foothill. Kevin Woodland added 14 points, including three consecutive 3-pointers as part of an 11-4 spurt in the third quarter that cut Coronado’s lead to 49-37.

The Falcons committed 10 turnovers and went more than seven minutes without a field goal in the first quarter as Coronado used a 15-0 run to take control early. Kornieck had 13 points in the opening period, and Johnson scored 10 in the second quarter.

Andrew Palma’s steal and layup capped a 21-6 run that put Coronado on top 39-15, and Jake DesJardins’ dunk off an inbounds pass from Palma put the Cougars up 41-17 with 1:15 left in the second quarter.

“We know that Foothill’s a good team and we know if you let them get into their game and get hot, you’re going to have trouble,” Kaufman said. “We talked about before the game that we’re going to come out as hard as we can, we’re going to throw a couple different looks at them and we’re going to be aggressive. ‘If you have an open shot, you’re letting it fly.’

“And our kids did it. They had the green light to do it. They knocked down some shots, they took the ball to the hole well, they rebounded well in the first half.”

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