In a showdown with first place on the line in the East Bay Athletic League, the De La Salle Spartans used a smothering defense to defeat the Monte Vista Mustangs 54-42 before a capacity crowd on the loser's court Thursday evening.
With the win the Spartans moved to 18-3 on the season and pull a game ahead of the Mustangs in the league at 9-1. Monte Vista falls to 17-5 overall and 8-2 in EBAL play.
"I thought our defense was exceptional tonight," said De La Salle head coach Frank Allocco.
Yes it was coach..."Monte Vista has a lot of (offensive) weapons and we tried to keep them off balance," Allocco went on to say.
The Mustangs never got in any rhythm offensively and got very few good looks.
The Spartans trailed only once at 4-2 with 4 minutes left in the first quarter. They lead 12-6 after one quarter and were in control of the game the rest of the way. It was 23-14 De La Salle at the halftime break and Monte Vista did not have any answers for the Spartans' pressure.
A three-pointer by Arizona-bound Elliott Pitts at the 6:39 mark of the third quarter gave De La Salle its' biggest lead of the game at 28-14. The Mustangs were able to chip away and cut it to 35-26 by the end of the third quarter.
But the Spartans exerted their will in the fourth period. Pitts nailed a three with 2:33 remaining to give the Spartans a 48-34 lead and that was the dagger in the Mustang's back. De La Salle made then made 6 of 8 free throws down the stretch to seal a critical victory.
This win also avenges a 49-40 loss the Spartans suffered on their home court against the Mustangs on January 8. Allocco said there wasn't any additional motivation for revenge from that game. The major issue was "that first place in the league was on the line" in this one.
Asked if this game was a statement about his team Allocco commented "maybe we are jelling at the right time."
The Spartans have battled injuries all season and they are currently starting three freshman. Allocco said his goal has been to get his team to play hard the entire 32 minutes of a game. "I think we did that tonight." Yes you did coach.
De La Salle (54): Elliott Pitts 24, Nikhil Peters 8, Brian Rosselli 7, Devin Asiasi 6, Mac Hoffman 5, Mike Inman 4
Monte Vista (42): Spencer Rust 11, Trevor John 8, Steve Oliveira 8, Rishi Satoor 7, Anders Turner 5, James Martino 2, Grant Jackson 1