RANCHO CUCAMONGA - Even before the CIF-SS Division I-A boys basketball playoff brackets were released, Riverside North coach Timothy Sweeny was wishing against a trip to Rancho Cucamonga High School.
The coach of the No. 1 seed Wolves nearly proved himself prophetic Friday night, but sixth-seeded Rancho Cucamonga fell short in its upset bid, exiting the playoffs after an 88-82 loss Friday night in the quarterfinals.
King's towering lineup owned the paint, notably 6-foot-6 power forward Eric Wise, who had 38 points and 12 rebounds.
Rancho Cucamonga sophomore point guard Justin Long's inspired effort of 32 points, 10 rebounds and four steals wasn't enough in the end.
After trailing by as many as 11, a Cougar team that didn't even win its league closed the gap to three with 2:40 to play, but King's ensuing 8-0 run sealed the Wolves' trip to the semifinals.
"(Rancho Cucamonga) played us as well as anybody has all year long," Sweeny said. "This is a tough place to play. The last thing I wanted to do was come play Rancho Cucamonga at Rancho Cucamonga."
King (27-2), which has lost only to the top two seeds in Division I-AA, eventually imposed its will on the undersized Cougars (22-7) - who won their two playoff games by a combined four points - but hot-shooting Rancho Cucamonga surged to a 24-12 lead 30 seconds into the second quarter.
The Cougars, the only team to have beaten Division I-A No. 2 seed Etiwanda, cooled off in the second quarter but held a 36-31 lead at the half.
King's inside presence showed itself in the third quarter, grabbing a 58-49 lead. Kawhi Leonard, King's 6-7 small forward who finished with 26 points and 10 rebounds, combined with Wise to score 17 points in the tide-turning third.
"We were right there except for that lull in the third quarter," Rancho Cucamonga coach Bill Burke said. "These kids actually thought they had a chance to go all the way this year. And they did. We played unbelievable tonight."
Guard Nick Bennett, who had 20 points, combined with Rashad Bowie to hit eight 3-pointers. The Cougars made 8-of-16 3-pointers in the first and fourth quarters combined but shot 1-for-9 from beyond the arc in the middle two quarters.
King only outrebounded Rancho Cucamonga 36-32, but 16 of the Wolves' rebounds were offensive, leading to numerous second-chance baskets.
The Cougars had to rely primarily on outside shooting and floaters from Long, who made 12-of-27 field goals.
The Cougars shot 43 percent from the field to King's 46 percent. The Wolves shot 24 percent in the first half but thanks to their dominance inside, made 68 percent of their field goals in the final two quarters.
"(Rancho Cucamonga) got off to a real fast start but we told our kids to be patient," Sweeny said. "Once we settled down and went to our strength inside they had trouble holding us off."