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Strong start pushes Capo Valley into semifinals

SPECIAL TO OCVARSITY.COM

MURRIETA - If the first and third quarters are universally considered the most important 16 minutes of a high school basketball game, then nothing short of a miracle could’ve prevented Capistrano Valley from returning to the CIF-SS Division 1A semifinals.

The Cougars scored 21 and 23 points, respectively, in those two all-important quarters and defeated Vista Murrieta, 67-55, in the Division 1A quarterfinals at Vista Murrieta High on Friday night.

“I think we came out tougher and more aggressive in the third quarter,” Cougars coach Brian Mulligan said. “We felt like we were outhustled in the second (quarter), so we came out after halftime more aggressive.”

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Capistrano Valley will meet Orange Lutheran in the semifinals Tuesday.

Aleks Lipovic scored 15 of his game-high 23 points in the opening quarter and Nick Thomas scored seven in the third to pace Capo Valley (25-4).

“Aleks made some shots early and really got rolling,” Mulligan said. “We have a handful of guys who can score, but when he’s finishing plays, we tend to run a little more for him.”

After shooting 71 percent (10 of 14) in the first quarter, Capo Valley missed 10 of 13 shots before intermission as their lead dwindled to four by halftime.

Capo Valley (six 3-pointers) and Vista Murrieta (five 3-pointers) combined for 33 points from beyond the arc in the first half.

“We knew they had three guys who could shoot,” Mulligan said. “During halftime, we made it a point to make sure they didn’t get the same looks they did in the first half.”

After the break, the visitors used a two-minute, 8-2 run to stretch the lead to double digits.

Leading by nine midway through the third, the Cougars used a 10-0 spurt -- during which they scored on six of seven possessions -- to jump ahead by 19.

The lead wouldn’t dip lower than nine the remainder of the game.

“I don’t think we can afford to get ahead of ourselves,” Mulligan said. “We’ve always took it game by game and with the seniors we have, we always seem to find a way to survive.

“Hopefully that continues in the next round.”

Anthony White hit six 3-pointers and finished with 18 points for Vista Murrieta (16-12).


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