LOS ANGELES — It looked like the Cinderella storyline was going to continue for the Santa Ynez boys basketball team when it traveled to L.A. to take on Milken in the CIF Southern Section Division 4A quarterfinals on Feb. 21.
The Pirates found themselves amongst a large, traveling group of fans and up by a two points with a minute left in the first quarter.
But as Milken’s outside shots began to fall so did the glass slipper for Santa Ynez, dropping the CIF-SS D4A quarters 54-42.
“We may be emotional but it’s a good emotional,” said the Pirates’ Blake Hadley, who had 14 points on the night. “We haven’t made it to quarterfinals in who knows how many years, it’s been over 30 years. We’re proud that we made it this far. I’m proud of my whole team, and we made history tonight.”
Santa Ynez (17-8 overall) won its first postseason game in 28 years, defeating Oxnard Pacifica on Feb. 15, 55-33, and St. Margaret’s of San Juan Capistrano on Feb. 18, 51-41.
But Milken, which had offensive threats all over the court was too much for Santa Ynez.
Milken went on an 8-0 run to end the first frame — with 3-pointers from Aaron Harouni and Idan Yohanan, and a layup from Brian Pearlman — and escaped the quarter with a 14-8 lead after missing buckets in the first five possessions.
Santa Ynez kept it close in the first half, with Michael McCoy and Hadley hitting big shots.
McCoy’s back-to-back 3-pointers from beyond the arc closed the gap to bring the Pirates within three, 24-21, just before the half.
“We played extremely hard in the first half to stay with them,” said Santa Ynez head coach Rod Caughell. “We made a nice little comeback and pulled within three. I was really proud of them with that first half effort to hang in there.”
And in the second half, Milken pushed the lead back up to 34-23 capped by Amtai Afenjar’s dunk with 3:46 left in the third quarter.
Afenjar scored 10 points on the night, but was guarded heavily after the junior’s dunk.
“Once we get on fire, unless the other team forces us to stop, we don’t stop,” Afenjar said. “It’s a snowball effect. That’s what I really love about this team. Once one of us goes off, we all feed off of each other’s energy.”
That snowball effect led to Milken having three players in double figures (Daniel Solomon - 13 points, Aaron Harouni - 11 points and Afenjar with 10).
After three Santa Ynez was down 43-26.
The Milken defense also targeted McCoy, who finished with a game-high 15 points, and Hadley, who tallied 14.
Zachary Hewitt added 6 points for Santa Ynez, while Drew Stephen had 5 on the night.
The Pirates tried to stay in it with a small run in the final quarter, after McCoy’s old-fashioned 3-point play and a Hadley layup to make it 43-31 with just over six minutes to play.
Santa Ynez wouldn’t get any closer than 12 in the remaining minutes before falling in the quarterfinals.
But by that point, history had been made.
“It’s just a special team to break out of a 28-year slump,” Caughell said. “It’s just amazing and they have heart. The communities come out to support them and it’s just an awesome feeling to get to the third round.”
Milken advanced to the championship game with a 50-47 win over Notre Dame Riverside last Friday. Milken was scheduled to play Shalhavet in the championship game on Wednesday. That score was not available at press time.