Mira Costa remains tough in boys basketball non-league finale
By Paul Teetor
Mira Costa’s scrappy band of under-sized over-achievers did it again Friday night, as the boys basketball team fought their way to a 57-54 win over a taller Claremont squad that led throughout much of the second half but ultimately folded under the relentless pressure of the ultra-physical Mustang defense.
The win pushed Costa’s overall record to 12-7 (1-1 in the Bay League) and was another important step on their way to the CIF playoffs, an annual goal but one they missed last season.
Head Coach Neal Perlmutter, who took over just before Costa’s venerable Fisher Gym was torn down last month to make way for a $38 million athletic complex due for completion some time in 2020, said the routine disparity in height no longer bothers his team.
“It’s fine with me,” he said. “We’re used to being the smaller team.”
Statistically, the Mustangs were led by their two best players, deadeye shooting guard Lucas Hobbs who rang up 17 points, and I-won’t-back-down center Hank Householter, who finished with 13 points and 12 rebounds.
But the key play late in the game was made by 6-foot-2 power forward Parker Lynch, who stood his ground and drew an offensive foul from Frank Gower, the Wolfpack’s best player and leading scorer. A few minutes earlier, Hobbs had made a similar play when he drew a charge on a play that otherwise would have been a bucket for Claremont.
“Without those charge calls we might not have won,” Perlmutter said. “We work on it every day and it’s paying off.”
The game was tight throughout the first half, with Costa clinging to a 28-25 lead at halftime in front of a small but vocal crowd at Manhattan Beach Middle School. Hobbs opened the second-half scoring with a nifty drive to push the lead to 30-25.
But Claremont responded with a 10-0 run, and suddenly they had grabbed a 35-30 lead, forcing Perlmutter to call a timeout.
Matt Cammock started the comeback with a three-pointer, Hobbs swished a three of his own and Householter bulled his way to a hotly contested rebound, got fouled and hit two free throws to pull the Mustangs within 39-38.
The Mustang’s 9-man rotation began to pay dividends, as super-sub Carson Carey came off the bench to hit a tough floater, followed by a three-pointer to give Costa a 43-41 lead at the end of the third quarter.
“We count on Carson to give us a scoring punch off the bench,” Perlmutter said. “Tonight he was very patient in waiting for his opportunities and then cashing them in.”
Claremont knotted it at 45-45 early in the fourth quarter, but junior guard Max McCalla drilled a corner 3 to take back the lead and the Mustangs never trailed again, even though Claremont came within two points several times.
“Our kids showed some real grit tonight,” Perlmutter said after the game. “When Claremont took that lead early in the second half we didn’t fold – we just played harder and smarter.”
The Mustangs return to Bay League action this week as they face highly regarded Leuzinger Tuesday night at MBMS and then travel to Compton to take on Centennial Friday night. On Tuesday, Jan. 15, Mira Costa takes on rival Redondo at 7:30 p.m. at El Segundo High School.
Redondo, who fell to Westchester (No. 7 in state, No. 13 nationally) 74-60 in the Take Flight Challenge on Friday, hosts Palos Verdes Tuesday, and plays at Peninsula on Friday before taking on Mira Costa.
Xan Wesley led Redondo with 21 points, Mike Solimando had 10 and Jayden Winfrey finished with nine. ER
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