By Jeremy Balan
Riding a late second-quarter run, O’Connell High School clinched third place in the AAA’s Neff Division with a 79-57 win over Burton High School on Tuesday.
O’Connell (12-15, 5-9) will face Washington High School, the Lang Division’s second seed, on Friday in the first round of the AAA playoffs. The Boilermakers are making their first playoff appearance in 15 years.
With the loss, Burton (8-20, 4-10) drops to fourth place in the Neff Division and will face powerhouse Mission High School in the first round.
Only up 24-22 midway through the second quarter, the Boilermakers went on a 16-2 run to end the half and never looked back, opening up a 26 point lead in the second half.
“We got off to a slow start,” said O’Connell Head Coach Armando Pazos. “We’ll let you score a little bit, but we’ll force enough turnovers to put a lot of points on the board.”
O’Connell forced 31 Burton turnovers and 11 of them came in the second quarter.
“We were really lazy,” said Burton Head Coach Duane Breaux. “We had an off day. We can’t take this into playoffs.”
O’Connell senior guard Anthony Moody led the way for the Boilermakers with a team-high 21 points, to go along with several highlight-reel assists.
“I can’t say enough about [Moody],” Pazos said. “He’s the one guy I can rely on.”
The Boilermakers also got a solid contribution from senior forward Francisco Gonzalez, who had 20 points and was a consistent presence on the offensive boards.
Fellow senior forward Xeryus Loggins also imposed his will on the offensive boards and finished with 13 points.
“If we attack the basket, even if we miss, we’re gonna score,” Pazos said. “They couldn’t compete with us on the inside.”
Pazos is optimistic about his team’s chances against Washington on Friday.
“We match up extremely well with Washington inside and our guard play is peaking at the right time,” Pazos said.
Burton was led offensively by sophomore guard Terrance Ching, who had a game-high 22 points, with 18 coming in the second half.
“He’s done it all year,” Breaux said of Ching. “If he’s shooting the ball, we’re doing OK. He only had three shots in the first half. That tells the story.”
No other Burton player finished with more than six points.