The Meadows’ Joe Epstein is the last remaining piece to receive significant playing time for the school’s 2016 state championship team.
On Tuesday night, the 6-foot-2-inch junior showed he’s also the bridge to the Mustangs’ bright future.
Epstein scored a game-high 17 points, and added 11 rebounds and two assists, leading The Meadows to a 57-43 home win over Calvary Chapel in a Class 2A boys basketball matchup.
“He’s stepping into where his brother (was),” said The Meadows coach Brian Lang, who coached Joe’s now-graduated brother, Jake, last season. “I’ve had Joe since he was in third grade, playing AAU basketball, and we’ve trained a lot. He’s getting better and is stepping into that role like he’s supposed to.”
Epstein made 8 of 10 free throws and was active defensively to help The Meadows (6-3, 4-0) force 18 turnovers with its 2-2-1 full-court pressure. He also contributed in holding Calvary Chapel standout Elijah Martinez scoreless in the second half. Martinez had made three 3s and scored 15 in the first half.
“(Epstein) is taking on the role of a leader,” Lang said. “(Martinez) hurt us in the first half. So in the second half, we really had to tell guys to step up and buy in and go get him. Find where he’s at.”
The Meadows, which graduated seven seniors from a season ago — many of whom were in attendance Tuesday — used their stingy defense to create baskets in transition and pull away in the second half after leading just 31-26 at halftime.
The Mustangs held Calvary Chapel without a basket for the last 4:30 minutes of the third quarter and took a 45-34 lead going into the final period. They had a double-digit lead for most of the fourth quarter and played keep away the final two minutes.
“Guys are buying into the defensive end,” Lang said. “Like I tell them, ‘Our defense has to be our offense.’ We press people, get up and down and get more possessions … People don’t want to play like that. It’s hard to play like that because you’re getting a lot of cross matches, where your big might be on my guard. It works for us. Once we get a steal, we turn and go.”
Kevin Riska had 12 points and eight rebounds and Brett Lieuallen added 11 points for The Meadows.
J.J. Robinson had 12 points and 12 rebounds for Calvary Chapel (1-8, 1-4), and teammate Blake Box added six points, 11 rebounds and three blocks.