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Otay Ranch finishes second in Southern California championship game Phillip Brents | Fri, Jun 03 2011 12:21 AM

The Otay Ranch Mustangs stampeded their way to a runner-up finish in this year’s Southern California regional playoffs after dropping a five-game thriller to the top-seeded Buchanan Bears in last Saturday’s final (May 28) at Irvine Valley College.

While the second place finish in the de facto state championship game might produce a spine-tingling sensation in most programs, the Mustangs know it could have been more in this season of otherwise plenty.

Otay Ranch led Buchanan 2-0 on the strength of opening 26-24 and 25-21 victories before the Bears — bidding for a mythical national championship — roared back with three straight wins.

Buchanan, officially ranked fourth in the nation entering the match by ESPN Rise, managed to instead find the finishing touches in polishing off the night with 25-17, 25-23, 15-12 wins.

The Bears finished the season 39-3. The second-seeded Mustangs finished 32-8, with a historic San Diego Section Division I championship in hand.

Nathan Allen led Otay Ranch with 19 kills while teammate Frank Herrera tacked on 16 kills and Nico Pizarro added 11 kills. Nick Alegrado had 41 assists while J.J. Olaogun had 14 digs, followed in that category by Pizarro (12) and Jorge Reyes (11).

After going 2-1 in the regional playoffs, all ORHS coach Tony Fajardo could realistically do was thank everyone for the very wild — and satisfying — ride.

“On behalf of all of our players and the coaching staff, I’d like thank all of our fans who cheered and supported us throughout the season and during our San Diego and Southern California championship runs,” Fajardo said. “It was a great ride and we’re so thankful that we could share these exciting new experiences with them.  We are extremely proud to represent Otay Ranch High School, the South Bay community, San Diego County and, of course, all of our closest family and friends.”

The scene last Saturday was juxtaposed against a raucous on-court celebration amid hundreds of well wishers after the Mustangs defeated Burbank Burroughs 3-1 in the SoCal semifinals on May 26.

The floor was covered with ecstatic screaming fans after Otay Ranch was awarded the match-winning point in its dramatic come-from-behind 27-25 fourth game victory to secure the berth in the SoCal finals.

Fajardo pointed to the support from the 750 fans in attendance for, in his words, “willing” his team to victory.

It was all part of a 25-21, 10-25, 25-16, 27-25 heroic conquest over  the Indians (34-5).

Francis Parker defeated Coastal League rival Bishop’s, 3-0, to advance to last Saturday’s SoCal Division III title game. However, the Lancers (16-17-1) were not able to get past Laguna Beach (23-11), falling 3-2 in five games. Otay Ranch and Francis Parker became the first two San Diego area teams to qualify for the SoCal championships.

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