With a senior-laden squad holding plenty of playoff experience, expectations were high for The Meadows’ boys basketball team this season.
That experience, plus a second-quarter spurt, helped the Mustangs punch their ticket to the Division III state tournament on Friday.
The Meadows shook off a slow start, and used a 16-2 run early in the second quarter, to down Mountain View 62-46 in the semifinals of the Division III Southern League tournament at Sunrise Mountain.
The Mustangs (23-6) will face Agassi Prep (23-1) in the final at 4:15 p.m. Saturday.
Both the Saints and the Mustangs had problems in the opening minutes.
Mountain View lost Jacob Lee just 24 seconds into the game with a leg injury. Without his shooting, it was a big hurdle the Saints were unable to overcome.
The Meadows, meawhile, went nearly five minutes before making its first field goal.
“I don’t know why we started so slowly,” Mustangs coach Gary Hanning said. “But once the guys settled down, we got into our type of game. Hey, we are still playing basketball, and that’s a great thing.”
That slow shooting in the opening quarter certainly didn’t carry over into the second for The Meadows. Matthew Biafore hit a pair of 3-pointers, and Jake Epstein and Eric Hirsberg contributed buckets in a key spurt that gave The Meadows a 25-11 advantage.
Mountain View didn’t quit and would pull to as close as nine with about five minutes remaining. The Meadows answered each Saints’ charge, and nailed 7 of 8 free throws down the stretch.
“We just couldn’t get over the hump,” Mountain View coach Ray LeBoeuf said. “Every time we made a bucket that seemed to get us going, seconds later (The Meadows) answered. It was a tough, frustrating night, but our kids didn’t quit.”
Nick Jenkins led the Saints (13-14) with 14 points, and Connor LeBoeuf and Tevin Gray each scored 11.
Epstein led all scorers with 22 points for The Meadows. Biafore had 15 points, and Hirsberg scored 12 for the Mustangs.
Agassi Prep 59, Needles 47 — The Stars made nine free throws in the final 2:35 to put away the fiesty Mustangs and win their 16th consecutive game.
Free-throw shooting, normally not a strong suit of the Stars, was their best friend, as Agassi Prep (23-1) made 14 of 19 from the stripe in the fourth quarter.
“We spend 30-40 minutes a day on our foul shooting,” Agassi Prep coach Trevor Diggs said. “In games of this much importance, it sometimes comes down to free throws and rebounding. Tonight, we did both.”
Agassi Prep made more free throws (23) than field goals (17).
Needles, with only two seniors on the roster, found itself down by as much as 16 in the second half. Led by the shooting of Trenton Poe-Evans, the Mustangs pulled to within eight at 52-44 with 1:18 left.
But the Stars were able to hold on from the free-throw line and move into the title game.
“We played The Meadows two tough games,” Diggs said. “It’s going to be a great game. We certainly have other goals in mind, but we will be ready to play.”
Deishuan Booker, who made 6 of 8 foul shots in the fourth quarter, led Agassi Prep with 19 points. Stephan Laushual added 10 points for the Star.
Poe-Evans led all scorers with 26 points for Needles (12-11).