Mountain View applied enough pressure to squeeze out a surprise win over host Cienega tonight in a play-in game for the Class 5A state playoffs.
The Mountain Lions’ suffocating fullcourt pressure defense created numerous turnovers that led to scoring opportunities for standouts such as junior forward Cameron Cotton (17 points) and senior guard Julian Molina (15 points).
Mountain View wins 75-71, advances to the 5A state playoffs. pic.twitter.com/e6HLXA6D5O
“I thought if we could get more possessions than Cienega, because they do everything well, we would be okay tonight. We did that,” Mountain View coach Corey Duck said. “That’s a great team. They do what they do well and that’s what we tried to take them out of.
“In the halfcourt set, they are one of the best. The press was more important that way, to take them out of their rhythm.”
Duck substituted his players freely and wisely to keep them as fresh as possible by continuously applying the press.
“We stay running (in practice),” Cotton said. “If we mess up, we run, run and run. That’s all coach has us do.”
Mountain View sophomore forward Cameron Cotton has a bright future. Led the Mountain Lions with 17 points in the 75-71 win tonight over Cienega in the 5A state playoffs play-in game. pic.twitter.com/9r6lwA9gQI
The No. 21-ranked Mountain Lions (15-11) now await their fate in the 5A state tournament, which starts Wednesday. The AIA will determine the brackets tomorrow.
As the lowest ranked team to win in today’s eight play-in games, Mountain View faces the possibility of being the No. 16 seed in the tournament playing at unbeaten Gilbert or another automatic-qualifying team (all from the Phoenix area)in the first game.
Duck’s team, however, may have helped its power rating by beating No. 12 Cienega (18-10) — the 5A Southern champs — on the road and could play a seed lower than No. 1 or No. 2.
“We’ll prepare for whoever,” Duck said. “Tomorrow, we’re just going to get to the gym and shoot and start preparing Monday.”
Mountain View guard Julian Molina had 15 points in the Mountain Lions' 75-71 win over Cienega, enabling his team to reach the 5A state playoffs. pic.twitter.com/Ab71LqAlLc
Mountain View, which led by as many as nine points with 3:15 left in regulation, survived a late rally by Cienega to keep its season alive.
A 3-pointer by Cienega junior guard Carson Mott, who had 21 points to lead all scorers, cut the Mountain Lions’ lead to 69-65 with 1:18 remaining.
After two free throws by Tre Linhart gave Mountain View a 73-68 lead with 25.6 seconds left, Cienega’s Jose Santiago-Rivera hit his fifth 3-pointer of the game with 6 seconds remaining to cut the lead to 73-71. Santiago-Rivera finished with 20 points.
Mountain View's Molina with two pressure-packed FTs. Mountain Lions lead Cienega 75-71 with 3.9 seconds left. pic.twitter.com/L3i4gdnUwW
Molina, who has surpassed 1,000 points in his career, was fouled with 3.9 seconds left and made both free throws to secure the win for Mountain View, which has won five of its last six games.
“It means a lot to come into Cienega and take the ‘W,'” Molina said. “We fought hard and fought together. I think our defense is what’s going to take us as far as we want to go. The main topic is defense, defense, defense.”
Cienega coach Farbod Safavi took some solace from the loss by how his team continuously challenged Mountain View despite the continuous pressure and falling behind by nine points a couple of times only to rally back.
Mountain View's pressure defense is stifling so far against Cienega. Mountain Lions up 25-16 in second quarter. pic.twitter.com/u3TDIK1qjl
He is also optimistic about next season with standout forward J.T. Elder returning along with Mott and Santiago-Rivera.
“We adjusted to (Mountain View’s pressure) well at times but not consistently,” Safavi said. “We’ve hung our hat on being a well-passing team and disciplined. Some of our passes got away from us; we got sped up. That’s a credit to Mountain View.
“But I’m very proud of this team. This is a phenomenal season for us … to win our region, we finished 9-1 since the Christmas break. These guys played their butts off and they’ve really gelled together. To return only 3 points per game from last year’s team and won our region, that’s a successful season.”