BBK: Royals pull away from pesky PV in 3-AA first-round game

A 15-point second-half lead was slipping away from San Marcos at the Thunderhut on Wednesday night.

Jake Wheelock restored order for the Royals by drilling a 3-pointer from the left corner. The clutch basket ignited a 15-8 run down the stretch and pushed the Royals to a 60-51 victory over a feisty Palos Verdes team in the first round of the CIF Division 3-AA boys basketball playoffs.

Wheelock scored 15 points, Bryce Ridenour added 13 points and Paxton Ridgway came off the bench to provide tough defense and some calmness on offense in a game that at times was played at a frenetic pace.

The Royals (17-7) advance to Friday’s second round at El Dorado in Orange County.

Ridgway’s heady play helped San Marcos go on a six-point run early in the second quarter and take a 17-8 lead. He passed to Elijah Johnson for a jumper, made a slick feed to Johnson for a layup and assisted on a shot by Wheelock.

“Paxton Ridgway played his best game of the year, I thought,” San Marcos coach Dave Odell said. “He really helped us when we couldn’t do anything against their zone, he softened them up a little bit. He rebounded well, he guarded (PV center Mike Shepard) well, because we couldn’t guard him until we put Paxton on him and he didn’t hurt us after that.

“Paxton had a huge game for us.”

Ridgway said his role is to settle the team when it starts to get overly aggressive on offense.

“One of my jobs is to push it physically but bring it back emotionally,” said Ridgway.

Wheelock and Johnson hit 3-pointers in the quarter as the Royals took a 29-18 lead into the locker room at halftime.

Ridgway hit a trey during a 7-1 Royals’ run in the third quarter, expanding their lead to 36-21.

Palos Verdes then caught fire and pushed the pace of the game behind quick guard Lucas Cooper. The Sea Kings scratched and clawed at the defensive end to get San Marcos out of sync. They went on an 11-2 run to narrow the deficit to 38-33 at the end of the third quarter.

A pair of baskets by Jordan Hazard and two free throws by Kyle Forman pulled Palos Verdes to within one, 42-41, with 5:10 left in the fourth quarter. Hazard, Forman and Mike Shepard each scored 10 points for the Sea Kings.

“We didn’t play well tonight,” Odell said. “We just couldn’t get in sync. It was just one of those games. It was probably the most frustrating game I coached all season.”

The Royals regained some momentum when Wheelock then hit his big 3-pointer.

“That was a huge basket,” said Odell.

Ridenour made two free throws after being fouled on an offensive rebound and Ian Douglas banked in an 17-footer to give the Royals some breathing room at 49-43 lead.

After PV missed the front end of a one-and-on, Ridenour drove the baseline and scored on a reverse lay for a 51-43 advantage with less than two minutes left.

The Sea Kings continued to scratch and claw and got basket by Hazard and two free throws from Nick Ball to pull to within four, 51-47, with 1:24 left.

Ridenour hit two free throws and Ridgway stepped up and made two big plays to all but seal the win for San Marcos. First, he disrupted the effective hook shot of PV’s center Mike Shepard and then fed Johnson for a 3-point play, which he converted for a 56=47 lead with 51 seconds to go.

Odell was pleased how his team was able to finish off a team down the stretch.

“I thought we came through with the plays and that was a huge confidence booster for the future for us,” he said.