Agassi Prep boys basketball coach David Claerbaut hasn’t been pleased with the way his team starts games for much of the season.
But it’s hard to argue with the way the Stars finish.
Agassi Prep rallied from a 17-point first-half deficit to earn an 80-77 Class 2A Southern League win at The Meadows on Tuesday night. The Stars improved to 6-3 in games decided by five or fewer points.
“We have shown a remarkable ability to play well when the game is right on the line,” Claerbaut said. “Our challenge is to play at a high level for 32 minutes.”
DeShawn Battle’s three-point play with 4.9 seconds remaining propelled Agassi Prep to its third straight win. Aerontay Shepherd came up with the steal and the assist on Battle’s go-ahead layup.
Battle, a senior swingman, had 24 points, eight rebounds, four assists, three steals and just one turnover.
Jacoby Whitehead (18), Shepherd (14) and Quincy Brown (12) also scored in double figures for the Stars.
Agassi Prep (9-8, 6-2) outscored the Mustangs 42-29 in the middle quarters.
“We didn’t really defend them any differently,” The Meadows coach Gary Hannig said of Agassi Prep’s surge. “We ran a little more zone (defense) in the second half because we were in foul trouble.”
Richard Martinez paced the Mustangs (9-11, 5-3) with 22 points. Max Newman added 19 points, Gerard Martinez 13 and Nate Gord 10.
Garrett Gosse’s three-pointer from the wing capped a 24-8 run by The Meadows to extend its lead to 37-20 midway through the second quarter.
But Agassi Prep clawed back with a 50-25 run stretching into the fourth to go ahead by as many as eight points.
The Meadows played without scoring leader Austin Brown, a sophomore guard who sat out with a shoulder sprain. Hannig said he hopes to have Brown back in the lineup by next week.
The Mustangs had only seven players suit up.
“Tremendous effort tonight,” Hannig said. “We were short-handed but played hard.”
Agassi Prep moved into second place in the Class 2A Southern League, shifting a half-game ahead of idle Lincoln County.
“We need to be sure that we get into the upper tier for the playoffs,” Claerbaut said. “These are the kinds of games you just have to win during the season, when you’re not playing as well as you like and you have to tough it out.”