ROWLAND HEIGHTS -- Panthers roar too, right?
With top-seeded Peninsula and No. 16-seeded Rowland tangled in a closer-than-expected scrap, Panthers standout Reese Morgan made a bucket and let it all out.
He roared. Another basket, another roar. Each time louder, more ferocious.
Peninsula wasn't about to get ambushed on the road, not after putting together a 24-game win streak and going undefeated in Bay League play. Not on Morgan's watch, at least. The Cal Poly San Luis Obispo-bound guard had a game-high 23 points, helping Peninsula (27-1) erase a halftime deficit in a 59-49 win Friday night. The Panthers advanced to the quarterfinals of the CIF Southern Section Division 2A boys basketball playoffs.
That's worth a roar or two.
"I tend to do that," Morgan said of his roaring. "I'm a pretty emotional player. I don't try to get too angry or down, but when I'm excited I'll show it. I think it gets the crowd into it and gets my teammates into it a little bit. It's a little bit of a motivation for myself, I get myself pumped up. I think I play better after that."
So did the Panthers, whose one-point deficit at the break had everyone mulling the improbable upset. A buzzer-beating three-pointer by Rowland's Derrick Mar sent the gym into a frenzy at halftime.
"It was not good," Morgan said. "I knew they had the momentum after that, but I thought we'd be OK."
Peninsula would be fine, but the close call had coach Jim Quick making a trip to the water cooler every few minutes. Sam Borst-Smith had 15 and Odera Anakwanze had 10 for the Panthers. Sharif Watson finished with 17 for Rowland (17-12).
Quick wasn't pleased with his team's execution in the first half and acknowledged that a better defensive approach helped things turn around in the second. The Panthers held the Raiders to eight points in the third quarter.
"Great [second] half of basketball," Quick said. "That's what got us the win. We didn't play very well in the first half."
Peninsula, 34-point winners over Fullerton Troy two nights earlier, seemed caught off guard by Rowland's physicality. The No. 16-seeded team wasn't going to lay down.
"That's the first time in a couple of weeks that the refs have allowed it to get that physical," Quick said. "I'm trying not to pick up a technical foul here in the playoffs to get myself and my team in trouble, but yeah, it was very physical. It was borderline -- almost not basketball."
Much of the underdog's aggressiveness was directed at Morgan -- Peninsula's top scorer at 27.2 points per game -- but he kept his poise. In the end, the physical strategy backfired and made Morgan angrier.
At least angry enough to roar.
"Yeah, it was a very physical game from the very beginning," Morgan said. "There were a lot of calls that we would have got in the regular season, but I was proud of my guys. We fought through it. Obviously we didn't agree with some calls, but that's life. The fact that we fought through it and kept playing hard, that was good for us."