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Trabuco Hills wins game in OT for ex-coach
MISSION VIEJO – Once Trabuco Hills clinched its 60-55 overtime victory over Esperanza on Friday evening, senior Craig Magyar pulled his jersey up over his head as he exhaustedly walked back to the Mustangs bench.
Stopping near mid-court as the student section stormed the court behind him, the 6-foot-6 forward unveiled a personalized shirt that read, "In McCluskey We Trust."
"McCluskey" was in reference to former coach Tom McCluskey, who resigned Wednesday after a dispute with the school over an email that was sent out by the booster club seeking funds from team members' families. McCluskey said he chose to step down instead of accepting a one-week suspension.
"I wanted to get the 'W' for coach," said Magyar, wiping away tears. "He means the world to me. He's been my coach for the last four years, since I was a freshman, and he taught about much more than basketball.
"He taught me about life, and how to deal with the ups and downs. He was like a second dad to me."
Magyar finished with 31 points — including 13 in the fourth quarter and overtime — and 11 rebounds for the Mustangs (4-2).
"It was all for coach," he said. "He's the heart and soul of this team. ... We're dedicating this season to coach."
In addition to the handful of students who also donned the "In McCluskey We Trust" shirt, a giant sign with the same motto — signed by each player — hung in the gymnasium.
"This win gives us confidence," Magyar said. "Without coach it's going to be hard, but now we have confidence to move onto the next game."
The void left by McCluskey's resignation was filled on this night by JV coach Robert Lee, who left two open seats on the end of the bench for his predecessor.
"We all miss him dearly, and we wish he was here with us," Lee said.
Trabuco Hills principal Craig Collins attended the game and responded to McCluskey's claims.
"I asked him (McCluskey) today if he wanted to reconsider and he told me that he was going to stay resigned," Collins said. "To clarify, it was never a suspension. ... He'd been asked to step back for a week, and could've returned on Monday."
Esperanza (3-3) erased a 13-point fourth-quarter deficit and scored on the final possession of regulation to force overtime.
Ryan Borak led the visitors with 12 points.