PACIFICA CHRISTIAN — The Seawolves asked for it.
Pacifica Christian High School’s boys basketball team came into the season with a trip to the semifinals of the California Interscholastic Federation Southern Section Division VI-AA playoffs on its wish list. The team, which began playing varsity basketball just three years ago, qualified for the playoffs the two previous seasons advancing to the second round for the first time in school history last season.
The team’s lofty aspirations have become reality as the Seawolves prepare to take on Tarbut V’Torah Friday at Culver City High School in the semifinals of the Division VI-AA playoffs.
“This was our goal all along,” Head Coach Kevin Kelsey said during practice on Wednesday. “As coaches, it’s great to put that challenge down for your players and then have them achieve that goal.”
Pacifica Christian, the no. 3 seed in the playoffs, qualified for the semifinals by defeating Capistrano Valley Christian on the road Tuesday night. Senior forward Cameron Bell was blown away by the crowd’s reaction to his visiting squad.
“It was definitely one of the greater experiences of my basketball career,” Bell said of the raucous fans. “It was really intense.”
Bell said that the rude welcome helped galvanize a team that was making its first-ever appearance in the third round of the playoffs.
“As a team, we performed amazingly,” Bell said. “We stood up to the odds and won. To come to their gym and beat them was amazing.”
Senior guards David Hammer and Derek Williams helped dictate the pace of the up-tempo game. After scoring just 20 points in the first half, the Seawolves came out in the second half with their minds set on advancing to the next round.
A 44-point second half later and the Seawolves were on their way to the semis.
“(Capistrano Valley Christian) does not give up a lot of points usually,” Kelsey said. “It came down to our defense that kept creating those easy opportunities.”
Since hosting a first round game against First Lutheran, the Seawolves have been forced to play a pair of road games in a row. The no. 3 seeded team will finally get a chance to play before a home crowd on Friday, which couldn’t be soon enough for Kelsey and his guys.
“We’re thrilled to be coming home,” he said. “We had to go through two very hard road games.”
While the team is pleased to be playing on a court it has called home all season, Kelsey has warned his players that they still need to execute their game plan if a trip to the finals is in the cards.
He expects Friday’s opponent, no. 2 seed Tarbut V’Torah, to present a balanced attack that features at least seven players with significant ball handling ability. Kelsey added that everybody in Tarbut’s starting lineup can shoot the ball effectively, which he called “unusual” for a school of its relatively small size.
Tarbut’s size upfront isn’t much of a concern for Kelsey, but its ability to break the full-court press has the coach devising a new defense to stop the speedy squad.
“In the next two days, I have to figure out how to play defense against them,” Kelsey said. “If we can guard them, we can do it.”