BY ESTEBAN RAMIREZ Special to The Californian
Behind a strong performance from center Ryan Reagor, South High topped host Mira Monte in boys basketball, 54-46, to take control of the South Yosemite League.
"We're 5-1 in conference now and we have two more home games against two good teams (Golden Valley and West), but if we can finish out, this will be our first conference title since 2007," South coach Brian Carter said.
Reagor led the way for the Rebels (13-8, 5-1 SYL) with 27 points and 17 rebounds. Forward Josh Jackson added 16 points and six rebounds. The Lions (14-9, 4-3) were led by forward Braxton Huggins, who had 23 points and 10 rebounds. Guard Lucky Manning added 14 points and six rebounds.
With conference championship aspirations, both teams came out strong, trading buckets and the lead. The Rebels took an early lead behind a strong effort on the glass, but the Lions bounced back and took the lead heading into the second quarter behind Huggins, who scored 11 of the team's 13 points in the first quarter. The teams headed into the half tied, 27-27. After Huggins scored 18 points in the first half, the Rebels adjusted their defense and made it harder for Huggins to score.
"I think in the second half we made an adjustment and went into a triangle and two (defense)," Carter said, "where whenever Braxton had the ball, we had one guy on him and sent another to help out, so we can see if the other guys can knock down the shots."
The game started to turn the Rebels way early in the fourth quarter when they disrupted the flow of the Lions' offense and took a 43-37 lead, the largest lead of the game at the time. Once again, the Lions fought back behind defense and their fast-break offense. They tied the game, 43-43, with a fastbreak dunk from Huggins with over two minutes left. However, the Rebels came back with a run of their own, outscoring the Lions 10-3 the last two minutes.
"We just practiced for this all day and coach kept pounding it in our heads, so we just came out and did what he told us we had to do and got that win," Reagor said. "Coach told us (at halftime) that we're away, so were not going to get all the calls we're supposed to get, so we just told ourselves that we had to come out hard and we came out and finished it out."
Mira Monte coach Scott Smith said Reagor played a key role.
"There was a stretch where Reagor got a bucket and put them up by four late in that (fourth) quarter, and it's tough being down by four in this game," he said. "They got some tough defense on us. Maybe if we could've kept it under that four-point lead our guys would have been able to come back."
He added that the size difference made Reagor a tough matchup.
"It's impossible to overcome," Smith said. "He's bigger than anyone we've played all year as far as height and weight. My guys gave all but they're 5-foot-8 or 5-foot-7 and that's all we got, but I'm proud of how they played.
"We're going to go to playoffs, our guys have earned that. They set the school record for wins and we still have two games left. Just give us four quarters, we'll play with any team no matter what ... We've lost a lot of close games, but we're going to get one, I just know it and these guys will take the next step."