The Tustin Tillers celebrate as they win against the Royal Highlanders 49-32 in the CIF-SS Division 3AAA championship game at the Anaheim Convention Center on Thursday, February 28, 2013.

Defensive attitude brings Tustin title in 3AAA


ANAHEIM – After Tustin boys basketball coach Ringo Bossenmeyer scouted Royal of Simi Valley, he surmised that the same things that won the Tillers games throughout the summer, fall and winter should suffice in a CIF-SS championship.

"Just taking care of the basketball and getting good shots and defending, ideally, like no other team," Bossenmeyer reasoned.

Check, check, and a record-breaking check.

No. 1 seed Tustin beat No. 6 seed Royal, 49-32, in the Division 3AAA final at Anaheim Convention Center on Thursday, claiming the school's first section title since 1991.

"I'm thrilled to death to be part of this team and the Tillers community," Bossenmeyer said. "This is the top of the mountain."

The next stop for the Empire League champion Tillers (30-2) is the CIF state tournament, where they will play host to a Division III first-round game on Wednesday. Brackets will be announced Sunday.

Royal's 32 points was the lowest total in a Southern Section championship since Antelope Valley Christian scored 31 points in the V-A final in 2004, although that was the lowest division that season. The next lowest total in a higher division championship was Brea Olinda's 25 points in the 1A final in 1961.

Tustin's matchup zone stifled the Highlanders (23-8) from the start, holding them to two points in the first quarter and four in the second.

A front court featuring 6-foot-6 seniors Nick Hornsby and Deondre Bryant and 6-5 junior Rob Nelsen kept Royal offensive catalyst Max McCoy out of the paint, while guards Xavier Powell and George Wilson made McCoy uncomfortable on the perimeter.

Tustin led, 40-19, halfway through the fourth quarter and gave up 27 points before emptying its bench in the final minute.

The Tillers led, 17-15, late in the third quarter before going on a 14-0 run, sparked by two free throws, two jumpers and a layup by Bryant. He finished with 15 points and nine rebounds. Hornsby had 10 points, 10 rebounds, three steals and two blocks. Powell had 15 points and three steals.

"I don't think what we do schematically is any different than what other teams do on defense, but with our length and athleticism to get out and cover shooters and contest, that's huge," Bossenmeyer said. "Sometimes when you come up empty on the offensive end, you can lose your intensity on the defensive side of the ball.

"We weren't doing that."

No, Tustin, despite scoring only 14 points in the first half, just played better defense. The Tillers forced 12 turnovers by halftime and held Royal to 12.5 percent shooting from the field. They finished with 10 steals and forced 18 turnovers.

Tustin also limited Royal to three offensive rebounds through three quarters, an area Bossenmeyer said the Tillers "pounded away on for three days straight." McCoy finished 2 of 12 from the field for 8 points while the Highlanders shot a combined 23.5 percent.

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