Christian Ross paves way for Great Oak’s first-round victory over Tesoro
By Landon Negri
TEMECULA >> Christian Ross got the Great Oak boys basketball team going Wednesday night. Then the senior was also there to finish a hard-earned playoff win.
The 6-foot-5 forward scored a game-high 19 points, hitting his first three 3-pointers, and then a big put-back basket with less than a minute remaining as the host Wolfpack held off Rancho Santa Margarita Tesoro, 53-48, in a CIF-Southern Section Division 2A first-round game.
Great Oak (19-10), the Southwestern League co-champion, won its ninth consecutive game and advanced to play Cypress, an 82-73 victor over Burbank, in the second round Friday.
“He definitely is talented,” Wolfpack coach Robert Hickey said of Ross. “He can put the ball in the basket, and in the last half of league — and now the playoffs — he’s kind of been our scorer, and doing a great job.”
Yet the Wolfpack had to work for this win, even after building a 16-3 first-quarter lead behind Ross’ first two 3-pointers and four buckets by junior Tej Johnson.
Tesoro chipped away at Great Oak’s man-to-man defense and the lead, getting it down to four late in the fourth quarter. Ross again came to the rescue, hitting a rebound basket with 54 seconds left for a 49-43 lead, and then 3 of 4 free throws in the final 20 seconds when Tesoro crept to within 51-48.
The Titans were at-large playoff entrants, but also from the typically strong South Coast League. So yes, a 16-3 first-quarter lead was not worthy of a celebration, especially against a Tesoro team featuring a bigger lineup.
“Mostly what goes through our head is, ‘Keep it up,’ and ‘Keep focused,’” Ross said. “We don’t let up just because we’re up.”
Ross should know. He was a reserve as a freshman when the Wolfpack advanced to the Southern Section’s Division 1AA title game in 2015.