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brawley loses heartbreaker

February 27, 2002|By ERIC GALVAN

Sports Writer

CHULA VISTA — Brawley Union High's boys basketball team experienced heartache here Tuesday night as it lost to Kearny 64-63 in the CIF San Diego Section Division III semifinals.

For 31 minutes and 52.9 seconds the Wildcats could do little wrong against Kearny at Eastlake High School.

Just about everything No. 1 seed Brawley did worked. With 7.1 seconds in the game, the Wildcats were about to go to the Division III finals and advance further than any other Brawley boys basketball team had since 1974.

But in a little more than a blink of an eye, a 63-62 lead slipped away and what once was a Brawley 14-point lead turned into a Kearny upset.

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Up most of the game, including a 52-45 margin heading into the fourth quarter, the Wildcats let the Komets back in the game.

Despite the heartbreaking defeat, not only visible on the faces of the players but also the 100-plus Brawley fans in attendance, Wildcat forward Carlos Corral had mixed emotions.

"I really don't think there was any disappointment because we put everything we had out there tonight," said Corral, one of two juniors in the starting lineup.

Corral finished a rebound shy of a triple-double with 21 points, 10 assists and nine rebounds.

In the first half, Corral scored 16 points and helped Brawley establish a 37-29 advantage.

Corral cooled off slightly in the second half from a scoring standpoint, but still kept pulling down boards and dishing assists.

As Corral's scoring diminished, Brawley center Lafayette Lofton accounted for 10 of his team's 15 third-quarter points.

Early in the fourth, Lofton collected his 20th point, but with 6:27 to play he picked up his fourth foul and headed to the bench.

A minute later Brawley point guard Mark Rivera left the game with an ankle injury.

It was then that Corral hit his three.

"At that point I didn't feel any pressure on myself when they were out. Coach has been preaching to us all year that someone has to step up in games, so I felt like I had to," said Corral.

About a minute after getting his fourth foul, Lofton returned to the lineup. He added a bucket with 4:13 to play, but fouled out at the 3:57 mark.

The Komets then went on a 14-5 run, tied the game and took the lead with 5.4 seconds to play.

The Wildcats had one final possession with 2.3 seconds left, but a Jack Motter half-court prayer did not fall.

Lofton finished with 22 points, eight rebounds and five blocks, Rivera added nine points, seven assists and three rebounds, and Miguel Melendrez chipped in seven points, three rebounds and one assist. Motter had three assists and two points.

"Our goal at the beginning of the season was to make it to the championship. And the whole team felt that we could've made it. We thought that all year long," said Corral. "So, in that way, this was a disappointment."

Said Brawley coach Phil Grant: "Our team played hard tonight. We just didn't have it when we needed it. But we do have a good nucleus to build around."

The Wildcats finish the season with an 18-6 record and as Imperial Valley League champions with a 6-0 mark.

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