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No. 2 Mission Viejo rallies at end to beat Aliso Niguel
MISSION VIEJO - When the game hangs in the balance for the Mission Viejo boys basketball team, the ball seems to always find Evan Zeller, for better or worse.
This time was for better.
The Diablos gutted out a 60-58 victory over Aliso Niguel in their first South Coast League game Wednesday night at Mission Viejo High.
With under a minute to play and the Diablos trailing 58-56, Sage Stone blocked a Wolverines shot attempt, Zeller grabbed the loose ball and found Chandler Hutchison for a long jumper to tie the score at 58 with 40 seconds to play.
After a defensive stop and a Mission Viejo timeout, the Diablos again put the onus on their senior star with 12.2 seconds to play.
Zeller caught the ball off of a baseline cut and drew a foul, sending him to the free throw line for two. Zeller connected on both attempts from the free-throw line, giving the Diablos (16-1, 1-0) a 60-58 lead with six seconds remaining.
Mission Viejo coach Troy Roelen said he drew two plays up in the timeout, both of which were designed for Zeller depending on what type of defense Aliso came out in.
“We had a zone set and a man set for him (Zeller),” he said. “We said throw the ball in, cut hard off Sage (Stone) and they fouled him. He stepped up like a senior should and made free throws.”
With six seconds to play, Aliso forward Jake Smith got off a clean look at a 3-pointer, but it glanced off the rim as the Diablos faithful took to celebrating.
Smith paced Aliso (14-5, 0-1) with 15 points and nine rebounds, and Scott Lynds added 17.
Zeller finished with 13 points, eight rebounds and five assists, while Max Redfield added 17 and Stone had 11 points and 10 rebounds for the Diablos.
This was the Diablos' first game since suffering its first and only loss to La Costa Canyon of Carlsbad at the MaxPreps Invitational back on Dec. 29, and Roelen said there was a little bit of rust.
“These are the dog days,” he said. “Coming out of winter break to the first game of league and we haven’t played since the 29th, that’s a long time to have off. Everybody goes through it and it’s good to get the win.”