For the second consecutive game, the Dos Pueblos High boys’ basketball team finished strong late in the fourth quarter, fending off a determined effort from visiting Valley Torah to punch its ticket to the CIF-SS Division 4A championship game with a 58-56 victory on Tuesday night at Sovine Gym.
In the biggest game of the season to date, the Chargers were true to their identity as they used a balanced offensive attack to overwhelm the visiting Wolfpack and secure the victory.
“If our defense is solid, the offense is going to come. I know every one of these guys can shoot,” said Dos Pueblos coach Joe Zamora of his team’s approach in tight games.
Four Dos Pueblos players finished in double figures. Kael Rillie led the way with 16 points, including four three-pointers, and Joaquin Riker chipped in 15 points, with seven coming in the fourth quarter.
Joe Talarico and Grant Hughes finished with 14 and 10 points, respectively.
“I was hitting shots and my team was finding me,” Rillie said. “If we move the ball, whoever is getting the open shots will be the one scoring the most points, and tonight that was me.”
The game was tightly contested throughout as the largest lead for either team was seven points. Valley Torah took a 10-9 lead in the final moments of the first quarter on a driving layup by Noam Mayouhas.
With the Chargers clinging to a 27-26 lead late in the second quarter, Rillie buried a step-back three-pointer just before the halftime buzzer, and Dos Pueblos took a 30-26 lead into the locker room.
Riker opened the third quarter with a three-pointer that gave Dos Pueblos its largest lead of the game, 33-26, but Valley Torah wouldn’t quit and cut its deficit to 44-41 on a three-pointer by Johnny Dan as the third-quarter clock expired.
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“There isn’t much I’d do differently. We played hard. This is arguably the best team we’ve seen, not just this year, but since I’ve been the head coach in seven years,” said Valley Torah coach Lior Schwartzberg. “The most complete team — there are really no weaknesses, and for us to compete with them, drive all the way up here, in front of the largest crowd we’ve ever played in front of, and compete, win or lose, you got to be proud.”
A three-pointer by Talarico early in the fourth quarter put Dos Pueblos ahead 47-41, but Valley Torah responded with an 11-3 run and took its first lead of the second half, 52-50, on a basket inside by Gabriel Rbibo with 3:50 remaining in the game.
Two baskets at the rim by Rillie and a reverse layup by Riker put Dos Pueblos back in front 56-52 with just over a minute to play. Dan scored inside to cut the Valley Torah deficit to 56-54, and Rillie was fouled and sent to the line for a one-and-one opportunity but missed the free throw.
Dos Pueblos gathered the rebound, but Valley Torah stole the ball and called time out. On the ensuing possession, Krue Court and Hughes combined to thwart a Valley Torah drive to the basket, and Rillie leaked out for a transition bucket with just over 10 seconds to play that secured the victory.
“It’s a dream come true, to be honest. In my sophomore and junior years, we weren’t the best team and didn’t make it very far,” Riker said. “Valley Torah was a very good team. They made it this far for a reason.”
CIF-SS Division 3A Semifinals
Bishop Diego, 51; St Pius-St. Matthias, 46
Kai Morphy led the way with 21 points as Bishop Diego overcame a 10-point deficit entering the fourth quarter to capture an improbable victory.