With nine days left in the regular season, The Meadows’ boys basketball team looked as if it was going to cruise to a league title.
The Mustangs were 12-0 in the Division III Southern League, and all four of its remaining games were at home. But The Meadows dropped two consecutive games to make things interesting before finally closing out the title with a 66-51 home win over Mountain View on Saturday.
“I think our defense was better,” The Meadows coach Gary Hannig said. “That was the key today. Our defensive effort, our rotations, our communication, it was just better than the last two games. Really, that was the difference.
“Just everything about our defense was better.”
The Saints (19-7, 13-3 Southern League) had taken the Mustangs to overtime in the first league meeting but never threatened Saturday. Mountain View never got going on offense and shot 17-for-58 (29.3 percent) from the field.
Max Hisatake had 19 points and 11 rebounds to lead the Mustangs (23-3, 14-2), who never trailed. His three-point play with 2:35 to go in the third quarter gave The Meadows its biggest lead at 51-25.
“That’s what’s expected out of him,” Hannig said of his 6-foot-6-inch senior center. “He’s a double-double guy. When he comes and plays strong and dominates the game, usually good things happen.”
The Meadows built a 36-22 halftime lead, then got consecutive 3-pointers from Ethan Fridman and Asheesh Chopra to push the lead to 20 to start the third quarter. The outcome was never in question after that.
“We felt if we could get up over 20 and just play sound defense, that we would be fine,” Hannig said.
The Mustangs shot well from the perimeter, making 8 of 19 3-pointers (42.1 percent). Chopra was 5-for-9 on 3-pointers and scored 19 points.
“We’re a tough team to defend when we’re hitting shots from the perimeter and Max is playing strong,” Hannig said. “We can be tough to defend if everyone’s playing to the best of their ability.”
Mountain View tried to shoot its way back into the game, but its 3-point barrage in the third quarter nearly came up empty. The Saints were 1-for-15 on 3-pointers in the quarter. They missed their first nine shots in the quarter, all 3-pointers. Terrence Brooks finally found the mark from long range with 2:56 to go in the quarter to make the score 48-25.
Fridman had 15 points, five rebounds and six assists, and Jake Epstein added 10 rebounds and four assists for the Mustangs, who will play Calvary Chapel in the semifinals of the league tournament at 8 p.m. Friday at Chaparral.
Brooks led Mountain View with 19 points. Terrell Brooks and Christian Bennett each scored 13 for the Saints, who were 7-for-34 on 3-pointers (20.6 percent). Mountain View will play Agassi Prep in the other semifinal at 4:40 p.m. Friday.
Contact prep sports editor Damon Seiters at 702-380-4587 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter: @DamonSeiters