Mountain View gets defensive in section final

Jeff Tobin/Special to the Town Crier
Mountain View’s Will Dominguez blocks a shot by Leland’s Preston Weber in Saturday’s CCS final. Dominguez had four blocks and 12 points.

The Mountain View High boys basketball team proved to be the outlier last weekend – the lone Central Coast Section finalist to win a title without scoring at least 40 points.

The third-seeded Spartans edged No. 1 Leland 36-34 Saturday night in the CCS Division II final at Santa Clara High.

“Knowing how good Leland is and knowing how good our offense can be, I was expecting something in the 60s definitely,” senior wing player Sam Tobin said. “But, hey, I’ll take it. I’m not complaining.”

Neither was coach Kevin Mack, who guided Mountain View to its second CCS crown in three years.

“Two years ago, no one expected us to be there and no one expected us to win,” he said of beating Valley Christian for the school’s first CCS title in the sport. “I think all of us in the inner circle, our team, expected us to be here and win this game; nine months ago, that was our No. 1 goal. … We had to persevere through some adversity – none of these games have been easy for us in the playoffs – but these guys found a way.”

The Spartans (23-4 overall) did it in different ways. They rallied in the fourth quarter to overtake Christopher 44-36 in the quarterfinals, outlasted Aragon 80-75 in double overtime in the semifinals and claimed the trophy with a defensive gem that negated their season low for points. The six other CCS finalists (boys and girls) held under 40 points over the weekend went home empty-handed.

“I knew both teams defensively were good – and we were trying to do our best in the half-court defensive set, because that was our staple all year – but no one expected (the score) to be that low,” Mack said. “I’m proud of our guys for how they gutted it out tonight.”

Mountain View trailed 33-28 after Leland guard Fuad Alemu turned a steal into a layup one minute into the fourth quarter, but the Spartans scored the next eight points to pull ahead for good. Jack Resnick blew by his defender for a pair of layins – with Jailen Daniel-Dalton scoring in between off a pass into the low post from Tobin – and Jake Pappas buried two free throws to make it 36-33 with 3:54 left.

The Chargers (24-3) missed their next six shots – all from 3-point range – and didn’t score again until Trevor Baba’s free throw with 12 seconds left. He intentionally missed the second foul shot hoping his team would get the rebound, which it did, but Shane McKnight’s 3 try went awry and the Spartans secured the rebound.

Leland quickly fouled Pappas, who missed the front end of a 1-in-1 with 4.5 seconds to go, but that left the Chargers only time for Sohan Kshirsagar to heave a hurried shot from beyond the arc before time expired. The miss capped a rough night for Kshirsagar, held to four points after leading the Chargers with an average of 20.1 per game. McKnight, averaging 15.4, was limited to just three points.

“We just stayed attached to their guys,” Tobin said of holding Leland to its lowest point total of the season. “We knew a lot of their offense was going to go through Shane and Sohan, so we just stayed connected to those guys, made sure we got through screens, talked – communicated – and we basically shut them down.”

The Chargers focused on shutting down Tobin, who came in averaging a team-high 19.3 points per game, but they weren’t as successful. Although he took only seven shots and none in the first quarter, Tobin totaled 10 points. He made both of Mountain View’s 3s, the second putting his team up 23-18 early in the third quarter.

“We really keyed in on their really good players and they really keyed in on me, and the scoreboard reflected that,” said Tobin, who had a team-high 21 points in the 2017 final. “But we still found a way to win. Other guys stepped up, like No. 1 over there, Mr. Jack Resnick, who hit some big shots. Jailen hit a clutch layup and Big Will stepped up. It was a team effort tonight.”

Big Will – 7-foot-1 center Will Dominguez – scored a game-high 12 points, nine in the first half. The senior also blocked four shots.

“When you have a 7-footer, you’ve got to use him, especially when he’s bigger than everybody else out there,” Mack said. “He just changes the game on both sides of the ball. He stepped up big time tonight on both ends – defense and offense.”

A player standing 15 inches shorter than Dominguez came up big as well. The four points Resnick scored on those fourth-quarter drives were as important as any the Spartans made in the contest.

“He came to me at halftime and said, ‘Coach, I think I can get by my guy on the dribble,’ Mack said of his point guard. “I said, ‘OK, let’s run our four-out stuff, where you can drive by,’ and he made plays for us. He was huge.”

Mountain View’s season did not end Saturday; the Spartans have qualified for the Northern California playoffs as the No. 11 seed in Division III. They were slated to visit No. 4 Central Catholic (23-9) of Modesto in Tuesday’s quarterfinals, played after the Town Crier’s deadline. The winner advances to Thursday’s semifinals.

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