Some may have been surprised that there was no jumping up and down or any noticeable outward signs of ecstatic joy as the buzzer sounded at Elsinore High School. The Titans had just won the game against their crosstown rival 56-51 and secured back to back Sunbelt League titles for the first time in the school’s history. But it was a battle from the very start of the season and the players seemed to have a more subdued response.
The Titans first season game back in November was played in Santa Barbara against San Marcos High School with a great down to the last seconds win. But after that, they headed into December tournament play that brought them up against some of the best teams in the Inland Empire area, which included Chino Hills. They enjoyed the challenges they faced against those December opponents but their record was set on a roller coaster of wins and some frustrating very close losses that they didn’t expect.
League play then started off poorly for the Titans, who dropped their league opener at Paloma Valley 65-52. Temescal Canyon would spend the entire first half of league chasing the Wildcats until their pivotal rematch. The Titans prevailed in that game 65-61, which was as intense as any CIF playoff game. When asked about the intensity of the game, coach Ed Thomas said, “Anytime you play someone twice, and there’s a lot riding on the game, both teams are going to come out prepared and willing to give everything they have to try and win.”
The Paloma Valley rematch was not the only playoff caliber game for the Titans. In their rematch game at Heritage High School, the Titans and Patriots would need overtime to determine the winner. After hitting a clutch free throw to send the game to overtime, senior Brandon Sapp hit a pair of free throws to cut the Patriots lead to one at 69-68 with one minute and 16 seconds to play in overtime.
The Titans would not give up another basket, as they got two key defensive stops down the final minute of play. Temescal Canyon found themselves trailing 69-68 with 8.4 seconds to play. They executed perfectly but missed the potential game-winning shot. Senior Zach Oropeza was there to grab the rebound and score the game-winning basket as time expired, keeping their hopes of a league championship alive.
“Zach’s rebound and put-back were symbolic of the Titans league championship. It wasn’t what was supposed to happen but it could happen if you just keep playing hard, smart and together,” said coach Thomas.
Throughout league play, the Titans relied on each other to win games. Eight different players lead the team in scoring and 10 different players scored in double figures. Temescal Canyon’s starters Brandon Clemons, Jeremy Martinez, Cole Rathgaber, Brandon Sapp and Evan Tupper set the tone for the team with their toughness and unselfishness. There is also no drop off when they go to their bench of Jerred Jennen, Zach Oropeza, Gabriel Romero, Blake Sapp and Tyler Badillo, who are oftentimes the best players on the court.
The Titans chemistry and toughness wouldn’t be complete without the key contributions of junior Kyle Hudson and sophomore Cameron Horn or the consistent leadership of seniors Elias Jansen, Kyle Basham, Xavier Robinson and Fuga Obidi.
On Wednesday, Feb 14, the Titans opened the CIF playoffs as the fifth-ranked team in Division 3A at home against San Gabriel High School. The Titans won 65-37. They now play their round two game tonight at 7 p.m. against Citrus Valley at Citrus Valley High School. The senior-heavy Titans look to keep their season alive and earn a few more games together as a team in the playoffs.
Players Brandon Sapp, Blake Sapp, Kyle Basham, Tyler Badillo and Zach Oropeza are Canyon Lake residents.