BY STEPHEN LYNCH Specal to The Californian
Containing South High's Ryan Reagor is a difficult task even under normal circumstances.
But when the 6-foot-5, 275-pound center gets help in the form of hot outside shooting from his guards, like he did on Wednesday night, there is simply no stopping him or the Rebels.
Reagor scored 27 points and Reggie Belt connected on four 3-pointers to lift No. 5 South to an impressive 63-53 Central Section Division III first round-playoff victory over No. 12 Highland.
Trailing 40-39 with less than a minute remaining in the third quarter, the Rebels went on a 10-0 run, beginning with a Belt 3-pointer from the top of the key, to take command.
All 10 points during the spurt were scored by Belt, who finished with 14 points, or Reagor.
"We were just running our plays," Reagor said. "Everything was clicking and we made big shots."
South (16-8) will next face No. 4 Selma on Friday night. Selma beat Cesar Chavez 37-35 Wednesday.
The Rebels, 9-1 over their last 10 games, enter the quarterfinal riding a five-game winning streak.
After four early-game lead changes against Highland, the South Yosemite League champion Rebels steadily gained the upper hand and led by as many as six in the second quarter before settling for a 30-25 halftime advantage.
However, South began the third quarter 0-for-5 from the field, allowing Highland (10-17) to move in front 33-32.
Playing at a frenetic pace, the two teams exchanged the lead five times in the third period before Belt and Reagor, who had 19 points in the second half, wrestled away control of the game for good.
"The whole season the big guy has helped us big time, by putting up big numbers to keep the pressure off of us," Belt said. "(Tonight) I knew it was my time to come out here and make big shots to open it up inside so later on in the game we could go inside and get the good points that we need."
Derrick Duff had 18 points for Highland.
Scots' center Auggie James scored 12 points. He also spent much of his night playing backside defense on Reagor while other Highland players took turns fronting South's big man.
Little good it did. Reagor, extremely nimble for his size, used a variety spin-moves and short hook shots to score points and draw fouls.
The SYL co-MVP also made the Highland double-team pay with several nice inside passes that led to South layups.
"Highland played great," South coach Brian Carter said. "He (Highland coach Jeff Waldrip) had a game-plan. He came in, he stuck to it. They disturbed us a lot the first half by taking out Ryan, not letting us get the ball inside to him. The second half we just did a little bit of adjustment. Flashed a few other guys and I think it opened up a little bit for our guys."
The Rebels shot 44-percent (25-of-57) from the floor while Highland connected on 32-percent (19-of-60).
"The guys, they played hard the whole game," Waldrip said. "... We knew Reagor was a force inside. I was telling Belt, 'I might as well throw out my scouting report because I said we were going to pack it in because they're not really outside shooters.' They made me eat my words tonight. They stepped up and they hit their shots. Played very good defense. We lost to a very tough South team. I'm pleased with my guys on a good effort and a good season."