Mustangs improve to 7-5 going in to Bay League play
by Paul Teetor
In a season already filled with peaks – third place in the Pac Shores tournament – and valleys – a one-point overtime loss to El Segundo – the Mira costa boys basketball team was staring directly at the possibility of reaching a new low a week ago Friday night.
The Mustangs trailed winless South Torrance 16-15 late in the first half and the small-but-scrappy South team was playing with the intensity of a hungry man looking through the cafeteria window at an all-you-can-eat Christmas buffet.
In contrast, the Mustangs were playing with the intensity of a team that felt all it had to do was show up and they were entitled to a win.
When South took the lead at 13-12 and then again at 16-15, Mira Costa head coach Neal Perlmutter had seen enough. He called a timeout and rallied his troops with intensity, but without ever raising his voice.
The timeout paid immediate dividends.
Their tallest player, 6-foot-6 junior center Brennan Morgan, quickly scored on a layup. Senior point guard Max McCalla, the team’s floor leader, lined up a corner three and nailed it. Morgan got a pass low in the post, whirled around, and stuck a short shot and suddenly the Mustangs had a little breathing room with a 22-16 lead.
Costa’s 9-1 run was completed when Dylan Black, one of the team’s three talented freshmen, came off the bench to drill a 3-pointer that pushed his team to a 25-17 half-time lead.
South never got closer than 6 points in the second half, and in the end, Costa had a 60-44 victory for a bit of solace a week after suffering the heartbreak of the El Segundo overtime loss. In that loss they led for virtually the entire game before a rash of turnovers led to overtime. And they led late in overtime before El Segundo surged ahead on a lucky 3-pointer that banked in off the top of the backboard and gave them a 50-49 win.
Still, despite the win over South, Perlmutter took little comfort in his team’s performance.
“I knew if we stuck to the game plan we could wear them out,” he said moments after the game. “But we’re still turning the ball over way too much. We stress ball security every day in practice, but we still have to get better at it.”
Indeed, he said, if the Mustangs had averaged four fewer turnovers per game – and hit a few more foul shots — they would have a 7-3 record instead of the 6-5 record they had after the South win.
Their record improved to 7-5 after a win over Golden Valley Saturday night.
“It was our best game of the season,” Perlmutter said. “Now we’re 7-5 going into the Torrey Pines Tournament.”
One recent positive sign is the emergence of Black as one of the team’s best shooters, able and willing to take 3-pointers from anywhere on the court.
“Dylan is a really good shooter, and he’s hungry to play and get better,” Perlmutter said. “But his defense has a long way to go. How much he plays is going to depend on how well he plays defense.”
After playing four games in the Torrey Pines tournament, Costa will begin Bay League play the first week in January. Redondo will be gunning for its eighth straight Bay League title, but for the first time in a long time the race appears wide open: Redondo, Peninsula, Palos Verdes, Leuzinger and Mira Costa will all have a shot at the title.
“Peninsula has the most experienced players returning,” Perlmutter said. “But I think our kids can play with any of them. Our goal is absolutely to win the Bay League title.”
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by Paul Teetor