It may have been a chilly 41 degrees outside, but it was nice and cozy inside a packed Dunn School gym Wednesday night in Los Olivos.
The Earwigs (8-2, 4-2 Condor League), the No. 3 team from the Condor League, turned up the heat on the court and that led to a convincing 90-67 victory over Fullerton’s Eastside Christian Eagles (7-11, 6-2 Express League), the No. 5 seed out of the Express League, in the first round of the CIF Southern Section Division 5A boys basketball playoffs.
“It was the first time in school history – that’s since 1957 – that we’ve scored 90 points in a game,” said Dunn coach Jonathan Civitella. “We came out a little sluggish in the first quarter, but when we applied our pressure defense, it really turned it on for us.”
That pressure defense got the Earwigs into early foul trouble but it also led to 15 first-half steals that turned a close game into a rout.
Both teams had to shake off early game jitters.
After Eagles coach Jacob Trejo called an early time out, after neither team could score in the game’s first minute and a half, Eastside Christian center Alex Kee broke the ice with a layup in traffic.
That got both teams going and Tye Lubetsky got Dunn on the board with the first of his six 3-pointers.
Dunn point guard John San Jule followed with a layup and Dunn had a 5-2 lead.
“Our team starts and ends with John. He played lights out tonight,” said Civitella. “We feed off of him. He brings everyone else up to his level.”
“I have to give so much credit to Tye. He shot all those 3s tonight,” said San Jule. “And Jayden Lewis played such tough defense. It was nice to see him finish off the game with a dunk.”
Eagles forward Rene Torres then went on his own 6-0 run to give Eastside an 8-5 lead.
But Preston Lin and San Jule each drove for layups to put Dunn back on top 9-8.
The teams traded baskets for the rest of the quarter with Eastside holding a 14-13 lead after the first quarter.
In the second quarter, with Eastside up 30-29, Dunn’s full court press began to pay off.
Lubetsky’s second 3 started a 14-0 run that featured four Dunn steals, giving the Earwigs a 43-30 lead shortly before the half.
“Jayden was a madman on defense. He doesn’t get enough credit,” said San Jule. “He was everywhere, breaking up passes and helping us get the ball.”
Kee scored from inside just before the buzzer but Dunn still had a 43-32 lead at the break.
Early in the third quarter, Dunn went on a 15-0 run, keyed by four steals, giving the Earwigs a 60-35 lead.
With the score 64-39, the Eagles scored seven straight, cutting Dunn’s lead to 64-45.
But a San Jule layup and another Lubetsky 3 ended the run, giving Dunn a commanding 69-48 lead heading into the fourth quarter.
Dunn kept the pressure on in the fourth, going on a 10-0 run that began with yet another Lubetsky 3, followed by a long 3 from just inside the midcourt line by San Jule, a San Jule layup and a Jayden Lewis jumper.
With the game almost over, Lewis drove the ball in deep and the diminutive guard went up for a dunk, putting an exclamation point on the Earwigs’ win.
San Jule, a transfer from Mission Prep, led all scorers with 33 points; Lubetsky’s six 3s gave him 16; Lewis and Preston Lin each had 13 points with Mert Kantul adding 6.
“Tye was shooting lights out but everyone played their best game when we needed it and we needed it tonight,” said Civitella.
Dunn heads to Duarte (22-5) Friday night to face to face the division's overall No. 1 seed.
“Friday is a big game for us going against the No. 1 seed,” said San Jule. “But if we bring the same energy as tonight, I think we have a good shot at winning and if we can win that game, I think we have a good shot at winning the whole tournament as well. It’s been an incredible journey and I don’t want it to end.”
“It doesn’t matter what seed Duarte is,” said Civitella. “If we play our game, play fast, play tough defense, we’ll be okay. It was nice to play a tough opponent tonight. That will help us get ready for our next game but we have to bring our best effort Friday night.”