Mira Costa boys basketball advances to CIF Quarter Finals with Brentwood victory

Jacob De Armas' layup helped put Mira Costa out of reach of Brentwood in the third quarter. Photo by Ray Vidal

by Paul Teetor

Mid-way through the third quarter of Friday night’s Division 1 playoff game the small-but-very-vocal crowd of Brentwood fans began an unusual chant: “Mustangs rattled, Mustangs rattled!”

It was accurate as far as it went: Brentwood had just chopped the Mira Costa lead down from 16 points to a measly four points, at 49-45. 

The momentum was on the Eagles’ side. The Mustangs did indeed look rattled.

Mira Costa Forward Nick Lundy wasn’t rattled by Brentwood fans’ chants. Photo by Ray Vidal

But Mira Costa Coach Neal Perlmutter wasn’t worried because he knew his team had a super-power custom-made for white-knuckle situation.

“We’ve got four senior starters who have been through every kind of stressful situation you can imagine over the last four years,” Perlmutter said moments after the game ended with a 74-67 victory. “I knew they could handle it.”

And handle it they did: Senior forward Nick Lundy worked loose for a reverse layup to bump the lead back to six points. Super sophomore Jacob De Armas powered his way through a thicket of defenders to the hoop for a 53-45 lead.And when senior shooting guard Dylan Black poked the ball loose, picked it up and drove coast-to-coast for a flying layup, order had been restored and the specter of an imminent collapse floated away like a Chinese spy balloon shot from the sky.

The high-flying De Armas Euro-stepped his way to another layup, and when Lundy grabbed a hotly contested rebound for a stick-back, the Mustang lead was back to 11 at 59-48.

Led by the hot shooting of senior guard MJ Coleman, Brentwood kept fighting the rest of the way. But the Mustangs’ lost Mojo had been restored and the lead never sank below 7 points the rest of the way.    

Still, the outcome never should have been in doubt after the Mustangs opened the game with a show of dominance that lasted the entire first half. With senior point guard Will Householter controlling the offense and distributing the ball beautifully to open teammates, the Mustangs raced out to a 23-17 lead at the end of the first quarter.

Householter drilled a corner three to start the second quarter, and when De Armas electrified the crowd with a steal followed by a rim-rattling dunk, Brentwood was forced to call a timeout.

When the game resumed Black nailed a 3-pointer and the lead was a comfortable 31-18. Gone for the moment was any thought that the Mustangs might suffer a hangover from their last game, a nightmarish 12-point loss to archrival Redondo that doubled their loss total for the season from one to two, cost them a perfect Bay League season – although they still won the league title with a 9-1 record to Redondo’s 8-2 – and planted doubts that despite having the best record in school history at 26-2 this might not be a team of destiny, might not be a team headed for a Division 1 CIF title.

That feeling of confidence regained was only magnified when, mid-way through the second quarter Householter was inbounding the ball under his own basket and successfully pulled off one of the oldest playground tricks in the playbook. With all the defenders face-guarding their man, Householter threw a short pass off a Brentwood player’s back, caught the bounce-back, and laid it in for a slick two points.

Perfectly legal and a real crowd pleaser as it pumped the lead up to 35-20. 

But in the second half the Mustang’s temporarily lost their mojo, just as they had lost their season-long magic in the Redondo game.

This time it was Coleman doing most of the damage, driving the ball hard to the hoop to score or finding his teammates for easy jump shots.

By halftime the 16 point lead had been cut down to 12 at 46-34, and what could have been an absolute blowout win was now looking like a dog fight all the way.

Fortunately for Costa, they had a bunch of experienced dogs who knew how to guard their backyard.

They’ll get another chance to guard their yard Tuesday night, when they host Damien in a third round game.

Lundy, who played with great intensity all night, finished with 17 points, matched by Householter’s 17. Black poured in 15 points on his usual pin-point shooting, and De Armas chipped in with six points, two dunks and some stellar defense – inside and outside — when the Mustangs needed it most.

“Jacob is a force of nature on both ends of the court,” Perlmutter said. “He’s a key player for us.”

Costa’s other super sophomore, Preston Ezewiro, hit two big shots, a corner three in the third quarter and then another corner three, with four minutes left when Brentwood was making one last push and had cut the lead to eight points at 62-54. His three got it back to double digits at 65-54 and there was little doubt about the outcome the rest of the way.

The Mustangs had two goals when the season started: win the Bay League and win CIF. They have accomplished the first goal and now are just three wins away from the second.

Contact: teetor.paul@gmail.com. Follow: @paulteetor. ER


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