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Cypress falls in second-round thriller

CONTRIBUTING WRITER

MURRIETA – Vista Murrieta’s Armani Mills caught the ball in the corner with the score knotted at 46 and 55 seconds left in the game against Cypress.

The senior had missed all six of his first-half shots, including a couple air balls from long range. But Mills was a different player in the second half. Without hesitation, he launched a corner 3-pointer.

Swish.

It was bedlam on the Broncos’ side of the gym, as Vista Murrieta led by three points with 52 seconds to go.

That bedlam continued until the final whistle, as the Broncos beat Cypress, 52-47, in the second round of the CIF-SS 1A boys basketball playoffs.

Vista Murrieta (17-11) outscored the Centurions, 21-11, in the fourth, when Mills scored 15 of his team-high 20 points.

“What (Mills) has done for the last four years … it’s incredible. He did not want to go home today,” Broncos coach Andy Rucker said. “We get to keep playing.”

Cypress (20-10) trailed, 42-40, midway through the fourth after leading almost the entire game. Brad Belshe then scored six straight points on two jumpers and a fast-break layup to put Cypress up, 46-43, with 1:45 left.

Seconds later Mills hit a 3 in the same corner he would later ice the game from, tying the score at 46.

“There are times you come down to the last minute and you get the turnover or you get the shot,” Cypress assistant coach Tom Wong said. “It just didn’t happen (in our favor) this time around.”

The Centurions led, 36-31, after three quarters behind their scrappy 3-2 zone defense. They immediately doubled players in the paint and forced the Broncos to take 24 3-pointers through three quarters.

Vista Murrieta eventually cracked the zone in the fourth.

“We needed to start going to the basket and getting fouled,” Rucker said. “We finally did in the fourth quarter, got the ball inside and were able to make things happen.”

Belshe scored 25 points for the Centurions, who committed six turnovers in the fourth after committing seven through three quarters.


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