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Capo Valley goes low, but finishes on top in 2A
ANAHEIM – Anyone who looks at the final score might say it must have been the ugliest championship game in high school basketball history.
Capistrano Valley coach Brian Mulligan would disagree.
“I thought it was the most beautiful one in history,” Mulligan said.
Capistrano Valley defeated Oxnard, 41-31, Saturday in the CIF-Southern Section Division 2A championship game at Honda Center.
It is the first CIF-SS title for Mulligan in his 22 years as the Cougars coach. The school had won two previous CIF-SS championships, the most recent in 1992.
Capistrano Valley’s Dawson Baker, a 6-foot-3 junior guard, scored 25 points. That was more than half of his team’s points and more than 33 percent of the game’s total. Nic Lipovic, another junior guard, added eight points including a clutch 3-pointer in the fourth quarter.
The season continues for Capistrano Valley (25-6) and Oxnard (27-4) next week in the CIF Southern California Regionals. Both teams will play in Division 3. The regionals brackets will be released Sunday.
Capistrano Valley’s 41 points are the fewest for a winning team in a CIF-SS boys basketball championship game since 2004, when Sunny Hills beat Villa Park, 41-38, in the 2AA final.
It took something of a scoring deluge to get to the 41-31 final score. At the end of the first quarter, the score was Capistrano Valley 6, Oxnard 1.
Oxnard shot 24 percent from the field (11 for 46). The Yellowjackets were 2 for 20 on 3-pointers.
Capistrano Valley wasn’t much better. The Cougars shot 36 percent (11 for 31) and were 2 for 8 on 3-pointers.
High school teams notoriously shoot poorly in Honda Center. It is widely believed the deep, dark backdrops, so different from the shallow, lighter backdrops in most high school gyms, disrupt shooters’ depth perception.
Mulligan conceded that played a part in the low score and the poor shooting percentages. But, Mulligan, added, the Cougars’ defensive effort was a larger factor too. He lauded his players, especially junior forward Grayson Beeman, for their consistently high-energy presence at both ends of the floor.
“These guys, the defense they played, was unbelievable,” he said. “We believe at our school that you’ve got to stop people and you’ve got to rebound to win games. This group of wonderful, wonderful young men bought into that.”
Lipovic said it was easy for Capistrano Valley’s players to follow the game plan because they were confident it would work. The scouting report on the Yellowjackets offense, he said, was perfect.
“Somehow,” Lipovic said, “coach knew all of their plays. Everything. When they started a play, we knew what was coming.”
Capistrano Valley led from the outset, although it took a while to get that first lead. The game was more than three minutes old when Baker scored on a drive for a 2-0 Cougars lead.
Oxnard did not get its first basket until the game was nearly eight minutes old.
It was 11-9 in Capistrano Valley’s favor at halftime.
The Cougars built up an 11-point lead in the third period, but it was cut to 23-20 when Oxnard’s Luis Cervantes made a 3-pointer late in the quarter’s final minute. Baker followed with a buzzer-beating three, making it 26-20 going into the fourth quarter.
Lipovic’s clutch 3-pointer came midway through the quarter and made it 32-24. Eight of Capistrano Valley’s 15 fourth-quarter points were produced at the free-throw line.
Capistrano Valley was 17 for 22 at the line, including Baker’s 10 for 11. Oxnard shot only 10 free throws, and made seven.
Mulligan remarked afterward that his late father Bill Mulligan, who coached some offensive juggernauts at UC Irvine, would have detested a 41-31 game.
“But,” Mulligan said, “he would have been very proud of the way our guys played.”
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