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Prep Boys Basketball Playoffs: Patriots break through vs. Eagles
VICTORVILLE • The playoffs are always a good time to get a win.
It just seems highly unlikely that a postseason win would be the first of the calendar year for a team.
Not so for the Viewpoint boys basketball team.
The Patriots picked up their first win of 2013 by beating Excelsior 65-51 in the first round of the CIF-Southern Section Division 4A playoffs.
“It feels great,” Viewpoint junior point guard Tim Howell said. “It’s a relief. We are looking to make a good playoff run. We want to end the year strong, get as far as we can in CIF.”
On paper, Viewpoint might not look like a team that even belongs in the playoffs let alone a team that should claim the No. 11 seed the division. The Patriots were winless in league play and 10-16 overall.
The Patriots play in the ultra tough Alpha League that included Windward and Pacific Hills. They routinely lost games by upwards of 20 points. Despite finishing seventh out of seven teams they still made the playoffs.
“Perspective is important for us,” Viewpoint coach J.J. Prince said. “It’s our first year in the Alpha League. Playing top teams in the state is a great challenge. When you have a great group like this, it’s not (hard to stay positive). They kept believing in each other. They stayed with the process.”
Viewpoint shrugged off foul trouble and pulled away from Excelsior in the second half Wednesday.
Howell, who entered the game as the Patriots leading scorer averaging 14 points and four assists, sat for almost the entire first half after collecting two fouls in the first minute and another before the end of the half.
He made up for lost time.
Excelsior took a 26-22 lead into the locker room, but the Patriots opened the second half on a 7-0 run. Howell scored back-to-back baskets to make it 29-26 less than 2 minutes into the quarter.
Excelsior took a timeout and fought back with a 5-0 run to retake the lead but were never the same after that.
“That’s always my mentality to lead my team with scoring or passing,” Howell said. That’s one of my strengths as a player. In the first half I was having little difficulties with the foul trouble. But as I came out in the second half I kind of got the job done and just got my offense going and my teammates going as well.”
Howell finished the quarter scoring 11 of his 22 points and picking up just one more foul.
Excelsior coach Elvis Gibbs said it wasn’t so much Howell’s return as a poor defensive effort that turned the game. Viewpoint was able to score easy fastbreak points off Excelsior turnovers throughout the second half.
“We just made too many mental breakdowns defensively,” Gibbs said. “Once you make those kind of mental breakdowns, we gave them the confidence. Once you give a team confidence they become lions.”
Viewpoint took the lead for good at 39-37 off Jonny Paul’s basket with less than three minutes left in the third. Excelsior drew within four points midway through the fourth quarter thanks to Jared Montgomery’s 24-point, 22-rebound performance but never got closer.
For the Eagles (19-5), the loss ends an otherwise positive season. They easily took the Agape League with an unbeaten record just a season after finishing 3-5. The loss ends a 12-game winning streak.
“They grew up a lot,” Gibbs said. “From a bunch of kids that hadn’t really played organized basketball to a team that won the league championship.
“You have to give them a lot of credit. We’ve seen the difference. Player who weren’t even suppose to score a point in the season to growing to understanding how to run an offense.”
Howell 22, Juzang 16, Porath 10, Paul 7, Arslanian 6, Thompson 3, Stutz 1.
J. Montgomery 25, Kev. White 9, Kes. White 6, Fortson 6, Merrit 2.
Viewpoint 12 10 21 22 — 65
Excelsior 12 14 12 13 — 51
3-point field goals — Viewpoint 2 (Howell, Juzang); Excelsior 3 (Fortson 2, J. Montgomery). Fouled out — Fortson (E).
Matthew Peters can be reached at email@example.com or (760) 955-5365.