You sometimes may get the impression that North Torrance is a small team that just hitchhiked its way into the gym.
Well, you know what they say about how dangerous picking up hitch hikers can be.
Facing Long Beach Poly, which ousted the Saxons in the first round last year and had the same tall and imposing lineup, North found a way to do what it could not last season.
North got a defensive stop with 10 seconds to play and freshman Daren Hechanova hit two free throws with three seconds to play to secure a 66-62 first-round victory in a CIF Southern Section Division I-AA playoff opener at North.
North (14-13) advanced to face Capistrano Valley on Tuesday, which reached the second round with a 74-60 victory over Paramount.
North scored 25 points in the fourth quarter, by far its best offensive output of the game. But ask North if it's a fourth-quarter team?
The players are not quite sure.
What they are is a running, gutty team that found a way to win Friday.
"I don't know what you'd call this kind of team," Coach Gary Duperron said. "I just know they play hard, they believe in the system, they follow plans and they found a way to win here tonight."
North led, 43-38, entering the fourth quarter and managed to build a 57-49 lead with 2:23 to play.
But Poly (19-12) closed the gap to 63-62 with 25 seconds to play when Julian Camper completed a 3-point play.
Nic Allen hit one of two free throws to give North a 64-62 lead with 20 seconds to play.
Jon Gabio came up with the rebound of an errant Long Beach shot and fed the ball to Hechanova, who was immediately fouled. He secured the victory with two free throws.
A bunch of undersized seniors, one freshman guard and nothing resembling a big man gave North the look of a rag-tag team against Poly, which had 18 points from Travis Wilson and 17 from Camper.
Allen led North with 17 points. Danish Mansoor scored 14 points and managed to penetrate several times. Jeremy Mitchell scored 12 points and Brandon Miyano scored 12 and hit three of North's five 3-pointers.
"We didn't want to get into a game right under the basket with (Poly)," Duperron said. "We were all over the place, to be honest. Hechanova has been so good at hitting free throws when we need them the most."
Allen said North knew it needed to run Poly off the road.
"We kept attacking because we knew we could make them tired," he said.
Instead, North played its own game and beat a team that at first glance it looked like it shouldn't have.