For 16 minutes, El Toro might have been the best basketball team around.
Sixteen minutes later, the Chargers weren't even the best team on their home floor.
A stunning reversal of fortune knocked the Chargers out of the Southern Section Regional boys' basketball playoffs. Los Angeles Loyola, seeded sixth, came from behind in the second half and scored an 81-70 second-round victory over third-seeded El Toro.
With its victory, Loyola (24-7) will play host to seventh-seeded Crenshaw, a 61-59 winner over 15th-seeded Moreno Valley Rancho Verde. Loyola's last loss came in the Southern Section 1AA quarterfinals to Long Beach Poly.
El Toro (28-7) played for the 1A championship and ends the season with as many victories and any team in program history.
The Chargers lost despite five players scoring in double figures and another scoring nine points, despite making 14 three-point baskets, and despite a 48-38 lead at halftime.
Despite victory being so close, it was snatched away by Parker Jackson-Cartwright and Max Hazzard, who scored 25 and 17, respectively.
The South Coast League co-champion with Mission Viejo, El Toro led by as many as 14 points in the third quarter before Loyola's defense stepped up and knocked out the Chargers. Jackson-Cartwright made a three-point basket at the buzzer to give Loyola a 63-61 lead going into the fourth.
The Cubs outscored El Toro in the decisive third quarter, 25-12, before pulling away in the fourth. The Chargers, who scored 24 and 25 in the first two quarters, scored 21 in the second half.
Junior Jake Lunardi led El Toro with 16 points, followed by Tanner Aguera and Ryan Roberts with 11, and George Buaku and Sean Harman with 10. Cody White added nine in the well-balanced attack.
Lunardi made four of El Toro's 14 three-point baskets. The Chargers made 11 of 17 in the first half, three of 12 in the second. Those fell in line with the overall shooting totals: 19 of 29 (66 percent) in the first half, seven of 22 (32 percent) in the second.
GIRLS REGIONAL SECOND ROUND
JSerra 55, Santa Fe Springs St. Paul 32
Now comes the hard part—the rematch.
On the heels of a 26-point performance in the first round of the state tournament to defeat Chula Vista Mater Dei, Coco Miller added 24 points on Saturday to shoot down visiting St. Paul, 55-32.
The Lions took control with almost identical quarters in the first half, outscoring St. Paul 16-10 in the first and 16-9 in the second.
Other leading scorers for JSerra include Courtney Vaccher with 12 points and August Touchard with 11.
St. Paul had only three players score against the tough Lions' defense.
With its victory, JSerra wlll play in the Regionals semifinals on Tuesday at Gardena Serra, the top-seeded team in Division IV. Serra defeated Ventura St. Bonaventure, 61-39.
Serra and JSerra played a few weeks ago in the Southern Section Division 4AA semifinals with Serra winning at home, 48-37. In that game, JSerra trailed by four at halftime, six after three quarters, and had only three players score—Touchard (18), Miller (14) and Megan House (five).