By Bonta Hill
After getting pounded at home against Washington on Tuesday, Mission High School head coach Arnold Zelaya was hoping that would wake his team up from this season’s inconsistent play.
Falling behind by 11 points in the first quarter, the Bears (10-9, 4-1) outscored Wallenberg (7-9, 4-2) 21-8 in the second quarter to take control of the game before holding on to win 70-65 in Academic Athletic Association play on Thursday at School of the Arts.
With forward Gione Edwards benched for disciplinary reasons and starting point guard Antoine Porter battling an illness, the Bears got a big boost from their role players.
Kevin Murray scored a team-high 15 points and added four steals, Shaquille Fisher had 14 points, and little-used forward Davonta Gaines chipped in nine points and seven rebounds to pace Mission in an important league game for both schools.
“We were short-handed, but the little guys stepped up tonight,” Zelaya said. “We dug ourselves a hole, which has been the same story all year long, but I’m proud of these guys, and we did what we had to do.”
Coming off a lackluster defeat to Lowell, Wallenberg played with passion throughout. The Bulldogs started the game off on fire, hitting on 66 percent of their shots in the opening frame to jump out ahead 19-12.
Senior forward Aaron Brown, who came off the bench to score a game-high 24 points, had eight in the first quarter to set the tone for the Bulldogs.
“Aaron played really well and he’s pretty rusty,” said Wallenberg head coach Pat Mulligan. “He does some really good things for us and he’s an aggressive player for us.”
Mission absorbed Wallenberg’s early punch though, and took control of the game in the second quarter.
The Bears connected on five of their first seven shots to roar back and eventually take a 33-27 lead going into the half.
After giving up the lead in the second, the Bulldogs would never get it back.
“I felt when we were committed to get the ball inside, we were a much better team than when we didn’t,” Mulligan said. “But credit Mission, they’re a good team and they won a championship for a reason last year.”
The Mission lead would grow to 13 in the third frame, as Fisher began to assert himself on the offensive end with nine points in the quarter.
Unlike Tuesday, the Bulldogs scraped their way back into the game, as Brown tried to carry his team offensively.
Brown scored 13 points in the final eight minutes, and hit a three-pointer with 1:19 remaining to cut the Bears’ lead to 64-59, but Mission’s Miles Prescott ended the threat with a three-point play with 49 seconds left.
Despite his team dropping two straight league games, Mulligan wasn’t disappointed with his team after the loss.
“Our biggest goal today was to make progress. because in our previous game [against Lowell], we just didn’t play together well,” Mulligan said. “I thought we played together much better today and I felt like this was a good step forward for us. Even though the results aren’t exactly what we want, it’s a step forward.”
Next up for Mission is another big test, as they travel to the Sunset on Saturday to take on league-undefeated Lincoln, which has been playing with heavy hearts since the death of head coach Mark Gragnani.
“It’s going to be tough going to Lincoln knowing Mike’s not there,” Zelaya said. “[But] it’s two teams that play similar styles, so it should be a lot of fun.”
Kevin Murray – 15
Shaquille Fisher – 14
DaVonta Gaines – 9
Jaleel Stancil – 9
Two players tied with 7 points
Aaron Brown – 24
Ronnie Campbell – 11
David Li – 10
Andrew Chuong – 9
Nicholas Smith – 9