Although the high schools are less than 2 miles apart, the Mountain View and St. Francis boys basketball teams don’t have an annual tradition of playing each other. Sure, they might scrimmage or meet in a tournament, but the Spartans haven’t presented much of a challenge for the Lancers.
They did last week, however, when the teams met in what could be the start of an annual neighborhood rivalry game. While the host Lancers never trailed in the Dec. 12 contest, the spunky Spartans got as close as three points in the fourth quarter before falling 68-61.
“This was the year we knew we could keep up with them, but we had to have the right mindset,” Mountain View coach Kevin Mack said. “I was really proud of how our guys competed.”
The Spartans (4-2) also impressed St. Francis coach Mike Motil, whose team buried a trio of 3-pointers midway through the fourth to pull away.
“They’re a quality basketball team – they’re really good – and we knew that coming in,” he said. “We saw them in the summer and we knew they were big, long and athletic. We knew we were going to have our hands full, and we did.”
Mountain View center Will Dominguez, a 7-foot-1 senior, proved especially problematic for the Lancers (3-1). He scored a season-high 20 points, all of them in the paint, to lead his team.
“Will came to play tonight,” Mack said. “He did a great job.”
St. Francis primarily let 6-foot-6 center Dominick Adzich defend Dominguez one-on-one in the first half, but altered its strategy after intermission.
“We were trying to single him up, and in the second half we started (doubling) a little more and tried to disrupt the passing lanes,” Motil said. “I think we had a little bit of success with that.”
Dominguez scored eight points in the third – highlighted by a dunk – but was held to one field goal in the fourth. That basket came with 31 seconds to play, cutting the Spartans’ deficit to 63-55.
Most of Mountain View’s points came from inside the key, while St. Francis thrived from beyond the arc. The Lancers nailed 13 of their 33 shots from 3-point range. The Spartans were only 1-for-12 from distance prior to makes by Sam Tobin and Jake Pappas in the final seconds.
“We didn’t shoot the ball particularly well from the outside, and we’ve been shooting the ball pretty well,” Mack said. “I think a little of bit of their pressure had something to do with that – and they couldn’t miss.”
St. Francis connected on its first four shots of the second half – two of them 3s from Trevor Leon – to go up 43-28. The junior guard scored a season-best 20 points to pace the Lancers.
“Trevor probably played more than he played in the first three games,” Motil said. “He went out on the floor and earned it.”
Mountain View reduced its deficit to 47-43 by the end of the third quarter, getting a buzzer-beating bucket from Dominguez off a low-post pass from Pappas.
Leon drilled a deep 3 to extend the Lancers’ lead to seven, but the Spartans responded with a 4-0 run courtesy of Jailen Daniel-Dalton. The junior scored inside off an inbound pass and made a pair of free throws on Mountain View’s next possession to narrow the deficit to 50-47 with 6:29 left.
The Spartans failed to get any closer, committing back-to-back turnovers that St. Francis turned into 3s from Oscar Pedraza and Roy Yuan. Mountain View made 20 turnovers in all.
“We knew we were going to have some trouble against their pressure,” Mack said. “We turned the ball over and gave them too many opportunities.”
The Spartans’ next turnover led to a putback bucket by Kyle Rosecrans that gave St. Francis a 61-50 advantage with 2:27 to play. The Lancers made seven of their eight free throws in the final minute to keep Mountain View at a safe distance.
Eight players scored for St. Francis, which played without third-year varsity players Maurice Wilmer (injured) and Anthony Landphere (sick).
With all-league guard Logan Johnson now playing at the University of Cincinnati, Motil knows his team will have to win with more of a strength-in-numbers approach this season.
“We have a bunch of guys who are kind of the same,” he said. “Everybody’s got an opportunity.”
St. Francis is scheduled to host Leigh 5 p.m. Friday and Mountain View is slated to welcome Woodside 6 p.m. Saturday.