The lower-seeded Glendale Mountain Ridge boys basketball team walked in to Mountain View poised and ready.
That poise translated to points as it finished by outscoring Mountain View 20-9 in the fourth quarter for a 54-45 victory in the first round of the Div. I boys state playoffs on Thursday night.
D.J. Nunez led that charge, sinking two straight three pointers; one with 5:15 left in the game mark and another 45 seconds later. Other than one missed free throw, the Mountain Lions didn’t miss again.
“[I was just thinking] we’ve gotta just make those shots. We’ve gotta get the lead. We’ve gotta get the momentum,” Nunez said. “The 3s are a big hurt to the other team. Everyone starts playing better when someone hits a three.”
In the fourth the Mountain Lions switched to a four-corners offense that helped the team take advantage of a one-on-one matchups. By the end, Nunez tallied with 13 points and was accompanied by David Taylor, who added 17 points to the total.
“(Nunez’s three pointer) was huge. Every shot that went in was huge tonight,” said Mountain Ridge coach Eli Lopez. “[Mountain View] is just not going to make mistakes. They’re not going to beat themselves very often. Guys have stepped up all season, and it’s always different guys. That’s what is unique about our team.”
But the Toros didn’t give up after Nunez’s two three-pointers. They answered immediately afterward with a solid inside dish to 6-foot, 10-inch Payton Dastrup who put it in for two points. Following a quick bucket by Mountain Ridge’s Darren Mills, Mountain View’s Dastrup kicked it out to Brian Butler who then drilled a 3 from the left post.
But the Mountain Lions’ Tanner Waldrip hit all of his free throws down the stretch and kept the lead at 3 until they ended with a 6-0 run to end the game.
“Our kids have had faith all season, and they continue to get better and better,” Lopez said. “I didn’t do as much, they just believed in themselves.”
But while shooting 37 percent from the floor, Mountain View turned the ball over ten times in the first half, allowing the Mountain Lions to capitalize, despite them going 8-for-23 from the floor.
“When you turn the ball over more than 10 times in a half you’re not going to win,” said Mountain View coach Gary Ernst. “I told them [at the half] to just stop throwing the ball around the gym; we just didn’t play very good defense.”
The Toros were led by Brian Butler, who scored 15 points. Butler’s eight were the only points scored in the first quarter.
Lopez's father, David Lopez, is the team's lead assistant and formerly coached against Ernst while at St. Mary's.
“That experience there, you know it’s going to be a tough game. And it was,” Ernst said. “They played very physical and played more physical than we did.”
The Mountain Lions will now play Hamilton on Saturday at 7 p.m. in the second round.
Mountain Ridge 11 7 16 20 - 54
Mountain View 8 10 18 9 - 45