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No. 2 Mission Viejo wins IWN/Gary Raya Classic
IRVINE – On consecutive possessions in the first quarter of the championship game of the Irvine World News/Gary Raya Classic, Mission Viejo guard Evan Zeller threw down a one-handed slam on a fast break, then turned a takeaway into an and 1 against Tesoro's 6-foot-9 center Tanner Lancona.
The third and fourth plays of an assertive four-play sequence by the senior capped his first-quarter scoring at 15, concluded a string of four consecutive baskets, and he did a magnificent job of setting the tone for the rest of the evening.
A plethora of second-half turnovers by the Diablos allowed No. 9 Tesoro to steadily erase a large early deficit, but No. 2 Mission Viejo (11-0) made just enough plays down the stretch to nab an 85-72 victory on Saturday night at Concordia University.
"It's been a long week," Diablos coach Troy Roelen said. "We've had five straight games with no time to practice and keep sharp. Plus, we've been a little sick, so this was really the first time we've had everyone relatively healthy.
"All things considered, we're really fortunate to have won five games in a row."
Zeller – selected the tournament's Most Valuable Player – finished with 35 points, and Max Redfield – picked to the All-Tournament team – added 14.
"He's been with me for four years, since he was a freshman," Roelen said of Zeller. "His basketball IQ is off the charts. There are times where we want him to get going and times, like against Foothill, when we ask him to be more of a point guard.
"He's so versatile and such a great team player. He sets the tone through his attitude."
In jumping to a 28-5 first-quarter lead, Mission Viejo scored on 12 of its 16 possessions and forced four turnovers and nine missed shots – including a pair of blocks by Sage Stone.
By halftime, and then again at the end of the third quarter, Tesoro (9-2) was chasing 18.
Yet, a spirited fourth-quarter rally by the Titans – fueled by full-court defensive pressure and 14 points from Conrad Snyder – momentarily cut the deficit to nine.
Nine late free throws by the Diablos kept Tesoro (31 points off 20 turnovers) at bay, however.
"It makes the 'X' on our back that much bigger," Roelen said of winning the tournament. "We've had a great start and we hope to keep it rolling."