No. 5 El Toro too strong for Aliso Niguel
LAKE FOREST – Jake Lunardi poured in 23 points as No. 5 El Toro built an early lead and turned back every challenge from Aliso Niguel for a 65-43 victory in a South Coast League boys basketball game at El Toro High on Wednesday night.
The Chargers (18-4, 3-0) had a slim lead, 10-9, late in the first quarter before Lunardi’s 3-pointer and a 10-footer from Tanner Aguera in the final 1:33 gave them a 15-9 edge.
A jumper from Aliso Niguel’s Jake Smith cut the Chargers’ lead to 15-11, but El Toro answered with a 7-0 run thanks to a 3-poiner from Liam Skelly and field goals by Bryan Deluise and Lunardi, to take a 22-11 advantage with 5½ minutes left in the half.
The Chargers, who led, 31-15, at the break, had a decided rebounding edge in the first half, getting a number of second and third shots.
El Toro went up, 33-15, on Cody White’s basket 10 seconds into the third quarter, but the Wolverines scored seven points in 43 seconds, with a Ryan Roberts 3-pointer making it 33-22, and prompting Chargers coach Todd Dixon to call a timeout.
“We knew they would make a run, it was just a matter of when they were going to make a run,” Dixon said. “I thought our guys held their poise and we called a timeout, and we regrouped.”
El Toro responded with an 11-2 run over the next 3 ½ minutes to build a 44-24 advantage. Aliso Niguel got as close at 13 in the fourth quarter, when Scott Lynds hit a 3-pointer with 5:33 to go, making it 48-35, but Lunardi answered with a trey 22 seconds later.
“Jake’s been solid,” Dixon said of the 6-foot-6 junior. “He rebounds for us, he plays the decision-maker on our offense a lot, where he has to make the right play. He can knock down the three, he can post up a little bit. He’s been developing beautifully.”
Nine players scored for El Toro, with Skelly adding eight points and Sean Harman seven. Smith led Aliso Niguel (16-6, 2-2) with 16 points, while Roberts scored 15.