In order to find success in their 29th game of the season, the Edison Chargers wanted to stick to a two-prong approach when it took on Temecula Valley in the quarterfinal round of the CIF Southern Section Division 1A boys' basketball tournament.
For a good portion of the game, the host Chargers were on their game plan.
"For the most part, we executed what we had wanted to do," Edison Coach Rich Boyce said. "We wanted to shut down No. 1, and we didn't want to be hesitant if the three [point shot] was open. We wanted to let it fly."
That "No. 1" Boyce was referring to was Temecula 6-foot-5 junior guard and co-captain Justin Simon, and as for the "three" Boyce had drawn up in practice, well, they came to fruition at game time.
Sixth-seeded Edison rode its hot shooting from three-point range and contained No. 1 for the first half, but Simon took over in the second half and the Golden Bears, who were to take the lead for good with two minutes to play, went on to take a 68-63 victory.
Simon, who had nine points in the first half, poured in 21 in the second half as third-seeded Temecula (26-4) overcame a 32-28 halftime deficit.
It was his steal and dunk with 1:44 remaining that gave the Golden Bears a four-point cushion, 63-59.
"He's a good player but I thought our guys did a great job of battling all night," Boyce said. "We gave up two-three inches per player out there, but I told the kids that it was all about determination and effort tonight. They kept battling and a bounce here or there at the end goes the other way, and it's a different outcome. But, that's basketball."
Edison, the second-place team from the Sunset League and making its second trip to the quarterfinal round for the second time in four years, took a big hit when starting guard AJ Garrity went down under the Temecula Valley basket midway through the fourth quarter. The junior appeared to have twisted his ankle and had to be carried back to the Edison bench.
Garrity exited the Edison locker room after the game on crutches. Boyce said Garrity would have the "ankle checked later," to see the extent of his injury.
"Losing him hurt us," Boyce said. "We lost a good ball handler and some height that we need out there. But again, despite losing AJ, our guys just kept battling."
When Garrity, who hit a pair of three-point shots and finished with six points, exited the game, Edison (23-6) was in front, 59-57, with 4:07 to play.
It was the last time the Chargers would lead.
A driving layup two minutes later by Simon tied the score at 59-59. With 2:17 left, Simon missed from underneath but Temecula Valley 6-8 junior forward Zavier Harris was standing in the key when the ball fell right into his hands. Harris then dropped it over the rim for his first points of the night, and it gave the Golden Bears the lead for good, 61-59. Simon then came up with a steal near midcourt on Edison's ensuing possession and raced in for a dunk to take the lead to 63-59 with 1:28 remaining.
Southwestern League champion Temecula Valley held a 65-60 lead on a rolling lay in by sophomore forward Riley Schaefer but a long-range three by Edison junior guard Brae Ivey pulled the Chargers to within two points with 40 seconds on the clock.
It was still a 66-63 game late after a Simon free throw when Edison got the ball back. With 22 seconds left, Ivey in bounded the ball from under his own basket, shot his pass out to the top of the key to a wide open Derek Molina, and the junior guard launched a three-point shot that hit the front of the rim. Simon was there for the rebound and the Golden Bears ran down the clock before Schaefer was fouled and hit two free throws with 13 seconds left for a 68-63 lead.
It seemed as though Simon was everywhere at each crucial junction of the game.
"Justin's a guy who always lets the game come to him," Temecula Valley Coach Kyle Armstrong said. "Edison was really keying on him and playing him close in transition. But Justin is patient and started to get comfortable, and then took over for us. He has a high basketball IQ.
Armstrong and the Golden Bears were somewhat familiar with Edison, having played and defeated the Chargers last year at the Irvine World News Tournament.
"We played them last year so we knew they were going to be good," Armstrong said. "They were all sophomores last year and now are juniors.