Division 1AA: No. 13 Chino Hills 71, Leuzinger 62

CHINO HILLS -- The barrage kept coming and, rather than call time outs, Chino Hills coach Steve Baik kept his hands at his hips. The large lead had evaporated, the momentum gone.

Fortunately, Baik had AJ Hecox.

"Thank God they came through," Baik said. "Otherwise, I would have been called the worst coach in the world."

Hecox scored 14 of his team-high 24 points in the second half, guiding No. 13-seeded Chino Hills past Leuzinger, 71-62, in the opening round of the CIF Southern Section Division 1AA basketball playoffs.

The Huskies blitzed Leuzinger at the start, jumping out to an 18-2 lead midway through the first quarter. But the Olympians chipped away behind sophomore Eric Childress' 14 first-half points. Chino Hills' lead was trimmed to nine, 34-25, at halftime.

Leuzinger squeezed every tick of the break, emerging from the visitors' tunnel some 30 seconds before the start of the third quarter. None of the players made an attempt to warm up. The strategy seemed to pay off.

All of a sudden, it was a game again.

Leuzinger came roaring back, taking its first lead early in the third quarter on a breakaway layup from captain Marshawn McMahan. Still no time out from Baik.

Hecox responded by sinking a three on the other end. The Olympians eventually regained the lead, 44-43, but another Hecox three put the Huskies (22-6) up for good.

"That's the best feeling in the world," Hecox said. "I'm sure any basketball player will say that. When you're making your shots and you feel confident, you feel like you're unstoppable out there."

It was a bittersweet ending for Childress, who finished with a game-high 26 points. It was a different story for McMahan, the top scorer for Leuzinger (17-10). Hecox bottled him up to the tune of 3-for-15 shooting. McMahan had erupted for 29 points against Bay League champion Peninsula on Feb. 1.

Senior Warren Ondatje had 17 for Chino Hills, which didn't win the Sierra League for the first time since 2006. For the Huskies, Wednesday night's victory was a redemption of sorts. The senior group didn't want to be remembered as the team that didn't win.

"This game was real important because no one felt we would make it this far," Hecox said. "No one thought we'd get past the first round. We're still proving people wrong."

And the Huskies will have one more chance to bark Friday against No. 4-seeded Etiwanda (26-2), which took care of Long Beach Wilson.

"We feel like we've got a chance," Baik said. "Etiwanda is a great team. We're just going to have to go to the drawing board and figure out their strengths. We feel like we've got a chance if we compete with some energy."