EL CERRITO -- El Cerrito High boys basketball coach Michael Booker knew he had to regroup his team very early in a North Coast Section Division III semifinal game Wednesday.
With visiting Campolindo leading 4-0, Booker called a timeout just 46 seconds into the game. His team responded with an 18-6 run in the first quarter and didn't trail again in a 70-59 victory.
"We were a little bit unfocused," Booker said about his team's start. "I had to call a timeout to get them back in the game."
El Cerrito (28-3) advanced to its third NCS Division III title game in the past four years. The second-seeded Gauchos play No. 1 seed Bishop O'Dowd on Saturday at 3 p.m. at Saint Mary's College.
Booker was concerned about limiting Campolindo's 6-foot-6 Chris Hansen, who still managed 19 points and 11 rebounds.
The Gauchos also focused on pushing the game's pace.
"We just wanted to come out and beat them in transition," said El Cerrito's Jovontae Carleton, who scored 19 points including 7-of-8 free-throw shooting in the final quarter. Teammate Tyrell Alcorn led all scorers with 20 points.
El Cerrito had a 15-point lead early in the third quarter, but Campolindo (22-7) was within nine points with less than five minutes to go in the fourth. But a 3-pointer by Anthony Sullen and an Alcorn layup gave El Cerrito a 59-45 lead with 3:38 left, and the Gauchos led by at least eight points the rest of the game.
The Cougars suffered a big blow when Matt O'Reilly left with an arm injury after crashing to the floor in the third quarter. After the game, Campolindo coach Matt Watson said he was "99.9 percent sure" that O'Reilly broke his arm.