Mountain View High School boys basketball coach Corey Duck had a simple message for his team ahead of their road clash with Rincon/University High School Tuesday night: Do whatever it takes to grind out a win.
The longtime coach watched as his Lions did just that, storming back from a nine-point halftime deficit to earn a gritty 61-54 victory over the hosting Rangers.
The key moment for Mountain View came in the waning minutes of the third quarter, when a Rangers player was hit with a technical foul after arguing with an official.
That technical foul, which followed a personal foul called on a basket by junior guard Cameron Cotton, allowed the Lions to score five unanswered points, giving them a 41-39 edge at the end of the quarter.
The Lions never looked back from there, with senior Julian Molina pacing the offense in the final stanza, scoring 12 points, hitting all eight of his free throws.
Duck said his team, which improved to 9-8 for the season with the come-from-behind victory, did the little things right in the win.
“We came in to a tough place to play, because this a great basketball atmosphere and we snuck out a win against a really good Rincon team,” Duck said. “If that’s not a great high school game then I don’t know what to tell you.”
Molina, who woke up in the game’s latter half after a four-point first half, believes his team is playing its best basketball at the right time.
The senior, who entered Tuesday’s contest averaging 20.1 points per game, said the team’s second half surge was the direct result of Duck’s tutelage over the three-week winter break.
“We were working really hard over break,” Molina said. “We had a lot of practices and we were going at it early morning for about three hours a day and we just put a lot of work in.”
Duck praised his players for their ability to earn a win in what he called an ugly game, gumming up passing lanes and forcing a high-flying Rangers squad to slow down their pace.
“We grinded it out,” Duck said. “I mean, for three quarters or maybe two and a half quarters, nothing went our way and we still kept grinding. We just kept chipping at it and kept fighting.”
A crucial moment of the game’s final quarter came after another Ranger was called for a technical foul after chirping at the same official when the game was tied at 43.
Molina, who was fouled on the play in question, calmly walked up to the free throw line and buried all four of his attempts.
The baskets allowed the Lions to take a four-point advantage, which proved to be a lead they wouldn’t squander.
Watching his squad take advantage of the Rangers’ mishaps and grind out a victory over their regional rivals was the highlight of the night for Duck.
“That's the one thing I'd say tonight that we'd done this season more so than anything, just kept fighting,” Duck said. “That's all you can do is just keep fighting and the stars finally started falling and a couple of things went our way towards the end, and we got the win.”