El Toro surges late, stays in chase for league title


ALISO VIEJO — El Toro boys basketball coach Todd Dixon said he wanted his team to not worry about No. 9 Aliso Niguel or the potential league championship coming into Tuesday night’s crucial South Coast League game, but rather worry about their “process.”

The process worked out just fine as No. 5 El Toro defeated the Wolverines, 67-60, at Aliso Niguel High behind a balanced scoring effort to stay in the hunt for a league title.

“We want to worry about how we are getting things done,” he said. “How we’re executing our plays, and we talk a lot about the steps that it takes to be successful.”

The Chargers (22-5, 6-1) have been following those steps all season and is now tied atop the South Coast League standings with No. 2 Mission Viejo with one game to play.

The Chargers did not overlook Aliso (19-8, 4-4), however, and for good reason, as Dixon described both teams as being resilient on Tuesday night.

“We got a little bit of a cushion, and then they fought back,” he said. “Ryan Roberts stepped up and knocked down some shots, you gotta go for it in these situations.”

El Toro opened up a 17-point lead midway through the third quarter, but Aliso showed that resiliency as it went on a 9-1 run to end the quarter.

El Toro went into the fourth quarter nursing a 51-42 lead. 

The Wolverines opened the fourth quarter with 10-1 run, tying the game at 52 with 3:56 to play.

After an El Toro timeout, Roberts and Cody White hit back-to-back 3-pointers to give the Chargers a five-point advantage.

A three-point-play from Ronny Harris and two free throws from Kai Sato brought Aliso back within two, 60-58 with two minutes to play.

But another three from White, and strong free throw shooting down the stretch sealed the El Toro victory.

Dixon said he wanted to key his defense on stopping Jake Smith and Scott Lynds.

“They are crafty scorers,” he said. “They handle the ball well and shoot the ball well; our job was to try to contain those two.”

Both Smith and Lynds had good nights scoring the ball, though, as Smith finished with a game-high 21 points and six rebounds, while Lynds added 14 in the valiant Aliso effort.

El Toro had four players score in double-figures, including White with 14, Roberts with 11, Jake Lunardi with 11 and Tanner Aguera with 13.

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