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CIF-SS DIV. 5A BOYS  BASKETBALL PLAYOFFS – John Glenn continues to make history in Cinderella season, gets past HMSA in second round

February 17, 2022

By Loren Kopff

The history of the John Glenn High boys basketball program has been one of futility with a tablespoon of postseason life. But the 2021-2022 season will go down in school history as the best, especially what happened in this past Tuesday’s CIF-Southern Section Division 5A second round game.

The Eagles, ranked eighth in the division, trailed ninth-ranked Hawthorne Math and Science Academy by five points just past the halfway mark of the fourth quarter. But the play of senior Richard Ramos and junior Michael Saucedo down the stretch enabled Glenn to rally for a 62-59 victory. Glenn improved to 14-12 and will host top-ranked Fontana High tonight in the quarterfinals.

“Man, my emotions were everywhere,” said Glenn first-year head coach Sam Abebe. “And, I had to realize I had to calm myself down too, being the coach and whatnot. But I’m proud of this team. When the season first started, we were preaching this; to get to this moment and it seemed like it was going to be a long way to get here. But now we’re actually here and I’m ecstatic for this team.

“The only goal that I set for this team was I don’t want to lose games like how [they] lost in the past,” he later said. “I just wanted [them] to play hard to the end of whistle, whether you’re up 100 or down 100. The school should be proud of these guys. This is probably the best team at John Glenn. I hope that this school recognizes these young men for what they’ve done.”

Entering this season, Glenn had played nine playoff games, losing each time. On top of that, this past Tuesday was the school’s first home playoff game ever. And, for added measure, the 14 wins equals the same as the previous five seasons combined. Remember, Glenn had been the laughingstock of the Suburban League and the 605 League for a good part of the past 25 seasons, never winning more than 10 games in any season and having 15 seasons since the 1998-1999 campaign of at least 20 losses.

Glenn quickly built a seven-point lead in the first quarter following a steal and basket from sophomore Seyharmony Somchan three minutes into the game. The Aviators took their first lead with 21 seconds remaining in the stanza but never took a lead larger than two points the remainder of the half.

In fact, the second quarter would be one of momentum swings as Somchan’s basket with 7.3 seconds left in the first quarter started an 8-0 run, followed by eight straight points from HMSA, then a 6-0 run from the hosts. Glenn was up 27-25 at the half as Ramos, Saucedo and junior Sebastian Figueroa all had six points.

HMSA began the second half with six straight points, but over the final 3:21 of the third quarter, the Eagles went on an 11-2 run to regain the lead and take a 41-36 advantage into the final stanza. That would be short-lived as the Aviators tied the contest 99 seconds in on a basket from Mike Falujo. Over the next 4:13, there would be four lead changes and two ties with the final lead change coming when Saucedo drained a three-pointer. His last of five trifectas in the game with 1:41 remaining proved to be the game-winner and put Glenn up 59-56.

The final 47.3 seconds of the game proved to be nerve-wracking, and it began with HMSA calling a timeout after Jedidiah Obor hit one of two free throws to make it 61-59. With 22.3 seconds left, Figueroa turned the ball over when the play should have been stopped for a jump ball. Abebe called a timeout eight seconds later and with 5.8 ticks left, Obor was called for an offensive foul. Saucedo would ice the game with a free throw with 4.4. seconds left.

Glenn was seven of 11 from the field with three baskets from beyond the arc while the Aviators were eight of 13 from the field and a pair of three-pointers.

“We had to take some players out because their body language was poor because they weren’t having good offensive games,” said Abebe. “We saw a mismatch with their big kid out there and we knew he couldn’t move his feet. We just set a couple of high screens and…moved Saucedo to the one. That was the move that took off for us. I told him to be aggressive.”

This season, Saucedo would end up with one of his better games, scoring a game-high 21 points with seven rebounds and three assists.

It’s the second time he has scored over 20 points this season.

Ramos added 16 points, eight rebounds and two steals while Figueroa and senior Nataniel Jacobo each had 10 points with the former adding five boards and three steals.

“Mike’s a natural two guard,” said Abebe. “Moving him to the one…it was a tough transition for him. He had a couple of games where he had over 10 turnovers. But today, he was in the paint every time. He doesn’t talk very much, but he by far has the most heart on the team.”

Should Glenn pull off the upset, it will face the winner of the fifth-ranked Newbury Park Adventist/United Christian Academy game in one semifinal game on Tuesday.

“It’s going to be challenge, it’s going to be a challenge,” said Abebe of facing Fontana. “They’re the best team in 5A. We took care of one giant, now we have a bigger giant coming up on Friday.”

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