Intensity was lacking on Thursday night from the Mountain View Mountain Lions, as it all seemed to emit from Amphitheater High School in a 77-51 loss to the Panthers.

Friday night was a different story for the Mountain Lions, as they came home, and suddenly intensity came out of their rafters, as the Mountain Lions defeated the Rincon Rangers, 87-72.

“This was a carryover from last night,” said Mountain Lion coach Mike Parillo. “We played with intensity tonight, like we didn’t do the night before. But Amphi did.”

The Mountain Lions (13-5) scored 27 in the third period, and 33 in the fourth. They were led by the two-man game of Deondrae Johnson and Sam Thompkins-Barnes.

Neither was in the starting lineup, but the senior Johnson scored 24 of his 32 points in the second half. Thompkins-Barnes, who lived in New Mexico a year ago, scored 20 of his 26 points in the second half. They seemed to really thrive together, feeding each other for a lot of easy layups and open looks.

“We work out together,” Thompkins-Barnes said. “We have chemistry.”

“We have to, because we’re the guards.”

Parillo liked what he saw from his offense.

“There was better team play,” Parillo said.

“Tonight was a great example of team play. We ran our offense well.”

Rincon’s Asha Esprit kept his team in the game most of the way, as the powerful 6’6” big man was unstoppable near the basket, showing a great shooting touch both from the floor and from the free-throw line. He also shot well with either hand. He made 12-16 shots from the floor, and was 13-16 from the free throw line en route to 37 points. 

“Esprit is tough,” Parillo said. “He had 36 the last time we played them.”

But it was the two-man game of the Mountain Lions, as well as their defense against the rest of the Rangers that enabled them to take over in the second half.

After a timeout, the Mountain Lions generated three steals in a row en route to three scores, and eventually an 11-0 run that bumped the score to 48-34.

While Esprit was scoring 12 in the third, the Mountain Lions got 13 from Johnson and Thompkins-Barnes added nine.

“After getting the team involved,” Johnson said. “We played our game.”

Rincon had handled the ball reasonably well in the first half committing only five turnovers, but the Mountain Lions disrupted their dribbling and passing the entire second half, as they forced 17 turnovers in the second half. So what changed?

“We went into halftime,” Johnson said. “And we talked about how we needed to trap our man off the dribble.”

“We were aggressive on defense,” Parillo said.

Leading only 54-47 after three quarters, the Mountain Lions needed to keep scoring. The Mountain Lions also had to overcome the loss of three players to fouling out.

When Esprit ran over Anthony Marshall, and a defensive foul was called, Marshall’s loss left the Mountain Lions three players short with five minutes to play.

Johnson made a couple of free throws for a 65-56 lead. The Mountain Lions were able to maintain ball control and force a lot of fouls as the game got late, so they were not hurt by their own defensive fouls. Johnson was 11-14 from the free-throw line in the fourth, and was 15-19 overall, 79 percent. Thompkins-Barnes was 7-10 in the fourth, and also added 11 points.

The intensity that picked up after halftime made all the difference as the Mountain Lions outscored the Rangers the rest of the way, 60-47.

“We tried to stop them from getting the ball into their bigs,” Thompkins-Barnes said. “The game plan was to get them from behind and trap them into turnovers.”

As for Mountain View’s playoff prospects with the season winding down?

“We need to win games,” Parillo said. “Who knows how it’s going to play out.”

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