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SOUTHERN SECTION BOYS' BASKETBALL: HILLCREST CHRISTIAN READY FOR ANOTHER FINAL HILLCREST CHR. 69, ST. ANTHONY 51.

Byline: Kirby Lee Special to the Daily News

Ryan Haliday and Drew Rigney flashed smiles and high-fives after they left the floor with Hillcrest Christian of Granada Hills in command in the final minute of a 69-51 victory over St. Anthony of Long Beach in a Southern Section Division V-AA semifinal Tuesday at Cleveland High of Reseda.

It was near bedlam a year ago, when Haliday and Rigney led Hillcrest into the section final. But they have put this year's celebration on hold until after Thursday's final at Loyola Marymount.

Second-seeded Hillcrest (23-6) will play three-time defending champion Rolling Hill Prep at 4:45 p.m. in a rematch of the 2004 final. Rolling Hills Prep, the fourth seed, beat Hillcrest 79-70 in last year's championship.

``It's not exciting, but it still feels really, really good to win tonight,'' Haliday said. ``Last year, we weren't really expected to be there, so we were really jumping up for joy. This year, we are really poised and ready to play the final game.''

Haliday played a big part in helping second-seeded Hillcrest (23-6) get past St. Anthony (16-13). Haliday had 25 points and 12 rebounds. Freshman Dallas Rutherford scored 23 points, and Rigney contributed 15 points and 11 rebounds.

``This year, we were the ones that everyone wanted to take down,'' Rigney said. ``We're not going to be satisfied with anything less than winning the title.''

Hillcrest broke open a tight game at the start of the second half. They scored 19 of the first 23 points to take a 49-35 lead with 1:01 left in the third quarter, in which Haliday scored 13 points.

Rutherford took over in the fourth quarter after St. Anthony got to within 58-51 with a minute to play. The freshman scored 13 of his 23 points in the last seven minutes, including 7 of 8 free throws in the final 1:09.

A much smaller St. Anthony team outplayed Hillcrest during the second quarter to rally from a nine-point deficit and take a 28-27 halftime lead. Down 23-12, St. Anthony scored 10 unanswered points to close to one point, with Hillcrest going nearly three minutes without scoring.

Jed Hernandez had 21 points and Karl Dehesa scored 15 for sixth-seeded St. Anthony, which lost in the semifinals for the second consecutive season.

``I am very relieved,'' Hillcrest coach Joshua Kendrick said. ``It's been a tough season. This year, we were expected to be here from the beginning. Just to get this win is an accomplishment. This was a big, big game. To seal the deal would be nice on Thursday.''
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Title Annotation:Sports
Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Date:Mar 2, 2005
Words:434
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