Mission Viejo follows defense to 1A final


MISSION VIEJO - Mission Viejo’s defense sparked a 10-0 run in the third quarter and Michael Cramer scored nine of his game-high 20 points in the fourth as the Diablos’ top-seeded boys basketball team defeated visiting Crescenta Valley, 65-60, in a CIF-SS Division 1A semifinal Tuesday night.

The fourth-seeded Falcons led, 38-35, early in the second half but Mission Viejo (27-3) responded by increasing its defensive pressure in a 10-0 run that forced Crescenta Valley (26-5) to call a timeout with 3:44 left in the frame.

Evan Zeller highlighted the surge with a steal and layup while Cramer knocked away a pass and scored on the other end.

“We picked up the intensity (on defense), we stayed at home with the shooters and trusted Sage (Stone) and Jahleel (Pinner) in the middle to go ahead and rebound,” Mission Viejo coach Troy Roelen said. “I love my team. They did everything I asked tonight.”

Mission Viejo advances to the finals Saturday against third-seeded Orange Lutheran, a 67-60 winner against Capistrano Valley, at Anaheim Arena.

The Diablos’ Max Redfield (12) and Zeller (11) each scored in double figures while Stone blocked three shots.

Crescenta Valley sank five 3-pointers in the first half but only two in the second half.

"We had couple breakdowns in the first half and left their shooters," Roelen said. "We thought if we could pressure them the whole game, when it got to the fourth quarter, they won't have legs and their jump shots would be short. And they missed some jump shots, we got some rebounds and shot well from the foul line."

Cramer scored 17 of his 20 points in the final two periods, including a 9-for-10 effort at the foul line.

"Huge fouth quarter for us," Roelen said of Cramer. "In the big games, he's been good for us."

After Mission Viejo’s opened a 45-38 lead, the Diablos never trailed.

Crescenta Valley trimmed Mission Viejo’s lead to 60-57 with less than three minutes left but the Diablos’ Austin Reuland forced Cole Currie (12 points) to miss an off-balance 3-point attempt with 1:50 left.

Cramer then kept a possession alive with an offensive rebound with 1:10 left and later drew a whistle on a drive against Christian Misi, who fouled out with 40 seconds remaining. Cramer sank both foul shots and made two more with 12 seconds left.

“They were really skilled,” Cramer said of Crescenta Valley, which was led by Misi's 17 points. “Their big men could shoot, and one through five, their starters could shoot.”

Last season, Mission Viejo fell to Ventura, 56-55, in overtime in the 2-AA final.

"We're so excited (to back in the finals)," Cramer said. "This year, we're just going to finish it. We've got to win this year. We've been there once, experienced it. Now we're ready to win it."

Said Roelen of the matchup against Orange Lutheran, "It will be fun. We're going to go play very good players in Payton Banks and Gabe York. I know one thing: my kids are going to compete. They're going to compete. It doesn't matter if we get down early."

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