Mira Costa boys basketball marches over Palos Verdes. Next up, title rival Redondo
By Paul Teetor
The first-place Mira Costa boys basketball team was supposed to blow out fifth-place Palos Verdes Friday night at Fisher Gym. And they did – but not until the second half.
The problem: it was Mira Costa Senior Night, when each senior player, his family, and the school’s dance team are each honored during a pre-game ceremony. Individual pictures are snapped by the school photographer.
It’s fun, of course, but it’s also a distraction from the game waiting to be played. It has the giddy, anything-goes feel of the last day of school, but it’s not. It’s merely the last home game of the regular season.
And then of course there is the tradition that some coaches – including Mustang Coach Neal Perlmutter – follow of starting an all-senior five no matter how much or how little they have played all year.
In this case Perlmutter chose to stick with his top two players – point guard Will Householter and shooting guard Dylan Black – both of whom are rare four-year varsity players, and Householter is an even rarer four-year starter. Both are committed to playing college ball, Householter at Claremont McKenna and Black at Carnegie Mellon in Pittsburgh.
Joining them were fellow seniors Adam Barks, Roi (Double Double) Clinton and Tyler Tang – all of them good players who rarely played this year on a team so stacked it has compiled a 23-1 record, the best record in school history.
PV, meanwhile, had to sit and watch all the festivities and think about the last time they played Costa three weeks ago, when they got destroyed by a score of 73-39 in front of their home crowd. In that game Costa dominated the boards, and blocked more than a dozen shots by controlling the inside play.
So this time the Sea Kings came out with a new game plan: forget about penetrating the lane and instead launch three-pointers whenever they had an open shot beyond the three-point line.
And it worked – for a while.
PV jumped out to an 18-11 lead in front of a stunned home crowd, which had come ready to cheer yet another Mustang blowout of yet another Bay League victim.
Instead PV, led by senior guard Dino Aguirre and senior forward Will Bengston, rained three pointers on the Mustangs and gained more confidence each time they connected.
“We forgot all our defensive principles in that first quarter,” Costa Coach Neal Perlmutter said moments after the game. “But then we got down to business and remembered how we are supposed to play defense.”
Indeed, once Perlmutter inserted the other three regular starters – jack-of-all-trades Nick Lundy, post monster Trey (Red Mamba) Pearce, and Preston (Skywalker) Ezewiro – order was quickly restored.
Householter got the comeback started when he drove hard to the hoop, missed the bunny, grabbed his own rebound in a crowd, and stuck it back. Lundy chipped in with a steal and a layup to make it 18-15, but Aguirre nailed a corner three to make it 21-15 and silence the raucous Mustang crowd for a moment.
That was the last gasp for the Sea Kings. The Mustangs ran off an 11-0 streak that gave them a 26-21 lead they never lost the rest of the game.
Final Score: 70-52.
“It was a great way for our seniors to go out,” Perlmutter said. “Not just the four starters, but the others – Adam, Tyler and Roi – who worked so hard all year in practice. Every winning team needs guys like that.”
Householter led the Mustangs with 18 points and 10 assists, while Pearce had 17, Lundy 8 and Black 7. Aguirre had 15 points for the Sea Kings and Bengston was right behind with 14.
The win left Costa sitting atop the Bay League with an 8-0 record, but there is still potential danger ahead. They face Santa Monica in a road game Tuesday night, and then Redondo – now second in the league at 6-2 – Thursday night.
If the Mustangs were to stumble against Santa Monica and fall to 8-1, the Sea Hawks would then have a shot of at least tying them for the league title when the two arch-rivals clash at Redondo in the last game of the regular season.
As a certain disgraced, twice impeached president once said of his invitation to an insurrection: Be there, will be wild!
In the early game, the Mustang girls demolished PV by a score of 79-32. They were led by senior superstar Maile Nakaji with 19 points, followed by junior defensive hawk Ju Ju O’Brien with 15.
The win improved their league record to 4-4. If they can beat Santa Monica Tuesday night and avenge an earlier loss to Redondo Thursday night, they will be 6-4 in league and well positioned for a playoff run.
“We’re improving day by day and catching fire at just the right time,” Coach Jeff Herdman said. “I’m so proud of the way they’ve fought back from some tough early season losses.”
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