Brawley Wildcats lose in tight game against Olympian High in state CIF

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BRAWLEY — The Brawley Union High Wildcats basketball squad hosted Olympian High of San Diego Saturday night in a CIF State Division V showdown, only eight days after meeting each other in the CIF San Diego Section Division IV championship at UCSD’s Jenny Craig Pavilion. But after a close, high intensity game, the Wildcats lost 59-51.

The Olympian team came into Saturday’s matchup looking to avenge the 69-53 loss they suffered at the hands of the Wildcats, while the Wildcats (who were without team captain Adalberto Lopez due to injury) were looking to prove the previous San Diego CIF game was no fluke.

In the end, both teams tasted each other’s best shots in a back and forth affair, as similar playing styles made for a fast-paced tempo. But regulation ended without a winner, and a four minute overtime period was what decided who would move on to the next round of the state Division V tournament.

In the first stanza, the Wildcats made it look like a sequel to the teams’ first matchup, jumping out to a double digit lead behind sharp passing and quick jumpers. Emerging junior standout Jonathan Zarate put the Wildcats up 17-8 late in the first with an odd Lonzo Ball-Esque three-pointer. The Wildcats pushed their lead to 19-8 as the second quarter began, but took nearly half the quarter to put up any more points.

In that time span, Olympian High’s Isaiah Williams and Jerome Hoover controlled the paint and led Olympian to within five before both fell into early foul trouble. With Williams seated on the bench, the Wildcats cruised to a 27-18 lead at the half.

But Olympian came out firing in the second half, utilizing a nine point run halfway through the third quarter that was capped by a Sean Hernandez three-pointer to take a 36-33 lead.

From there, the Wildcats ended the quarter with a 4-1 run including a Jose Cristerna steal that led to a Jonathan Zarate free throw to put the Wildcats up 38-37 going into the final quarter.

The fourth quarter was a back and forth affair as constant lead changes and momentum swings throughout the period kept the crowd on its feet throughout.

It looked like the Wildcats had found the big shot late as Zarate hit a big three-pointer to put them up 44-41.

But in the last minute, down by two, Olympian senior Isaiah Williams snatched a late offensive rebound and was able to tie the game with a put-back layup.

The last 25 seconds were a frenzy on the court, but in the end, neither team could separate themselves as they found themselves in a four-minute mini game of overtime for the victory.

In overtime, Olympian found its groove again as Isaiah Williams provided Olympian with clutch rebounds and free throws to lead the Eagles to a 10-2 edge in scoring in the final frame and a 59-51 victory.

“It was a great game, but a heartbreaker to lose. We needed to make one play in regulation to win it,” said Brawley head coach Jeffery Deyo. “That is usually our forte, but it was not meant to be this night.”

For the night, leading scorer for the Wildcats was sophomore Casey Kline with 14 points and 11 rebounds. Moises Lazos added 12 points and 10 rebounds and Jonathan Zarate contributed 10 points of his own.

“An undefeated league championship. A CIF championship. Two rounds into the state championship. Twenty-seven wins, overall. This was a true team of competitive warriors, who made Valley history,” said Deyo of the season.

For Olympian High, it was Isaiah Williams leading the way with 22 points. AJ Neel would follow with 10 points.

With this victory, Olympian High will head to the CIF State Division V semi-final where they will meet Southern Section’s Norte Dame High from Riverside on Tuesday night.