Mitch Wallace didn't start for the first time all year on Thursday night, but he surely finished.
The Mountain View shooting guard hit a game-winning 3-pointer with six seconds remaining as the 10th-ranked Toros defeated No. 5 Desert Vista 53-52 in the VisitMesa.com Basketball Challenge at Mountain View.
Desert Vista forward Danny Powell hit a 3-pointer with 27 seconds remaining to give the Thunder a two-point lead before Wallace returned the favor. Desert Vista got the ball to Powell on its last possession, but he fumbled it for a moment and then missed an off-balance jumper near the top of the key.
Wallace had a wide open look on his shot when his defender sagged in on Camyn Boone, who had the ball in the post.
"I told him my man wouldn't help (with the two-point lead), but of course he went right in there," Wallace said. "It felt great coming out of my hand and I knew it was going in. I was ready to take that shot."
Wallace struggled in the first two games of the holiday tournament, and coach Gary Ernst moved him to the bench to take some pressure off. Wallace missed his first two shots, but finished 6-of-11 for 17 points, including five 3-pointers.
"He had been shooting the ball terribly, and I told him he needed to start having fun," Ernst said. "It's always a lot more fun when the ball's going through the basket."
The game swung back and forth throughout. Desert Vista jumped out to an 18-11 lead before Mountain View answered with a 16-2 run to take a 27-20 lead early in the second half. The Thunder pulled to within 27-24 with 14:29 remaining in the contest, and neither team led by more than three points the rest of the way.
Boone was the driving force for the Toros (7-4), scoring 20 points and hauling down 10 rebounds. Powell was the only player in double figures for Desert Vista (10-6), scoring 29 points on 12-of-16 from the field. He added a team-high seven rebounds.
Even though Mountain View is the defending state champion, Ernst made no bones about the impact of this win. The Toros lost impact players Jaren Sweeney, Mark Mazzucco and Kyle Bingham from that team and are still trying to put the pieces together around Boone.
"We've been so up and down," Ernst said. "We play well for awhile, we struggle for awhile. We've lost some tough games, so for us to beat a good team like Desert Vista, that's huge."