For the Trabuco Hills Mustangs, Thursday night's battle against the Aliso Niguel Wolverines was a true scenario of win or go home. Win, and the Mustangs clinch a birth in the CIF Playoffs. Lose, and Trabuco's season would be coming to an end.
The Mustangs rose to the challenge with a dominant, all-around performance, controlling the game from start to finish in a 71-63 victory.
Trabuco's starting junior shooting guard Zach Mowers led the team scoring 17 points.
"It was a team effort, we had four guys in double figures," he said. "With the season we've had, it feels great to win and reach CIF."
Quentin Watts (16 points), Chase Anderson (12 points), and Kelvin Cabrera (11 points) joined Mowers in putting up double figures for Trabuco.
"It's great to be a part of this team, everyone stepped up tonight for us," Mustangs sophomore guard Daniel Pendergast (5 points) said.
For Aliso Niguel, 6-foot-8 junior Harminder Dhaliwal (22 points) was efficient and aggressive, looking to post up throughout the game. Guard Lucas Parks also stepped up for the Wolverines, effectively facilitating through the Trabuco defense and looking to score from the outside.
Leading 58-48 with just over five minutes remaining, the Mustangs were focused on trying to stop Parks's penetration, as he was really looking to attack the rim down the stretch for Aliso. Dhaliwal was also extremely effective posting up in the paint for the Wolverines as time winded down, getting several crucial buckets. Despite the Wolverines' effort, Trabuco continued to hang on late, and Mowers iced the game with two clutch free throws, making it 71-63 Mustangs. After a skirmish between several players on both sides with just over 15 seconds left, technical fouls were given out. Those techs would end up benefiting Trabuco in the long run, as they padded their lead and officially sealed the win.
The first half saw both teams come out ready to go, with Aliso playing fast and Mowers shooting well for Trabuco. Mowers continued his fast start as the game progressed, knocking in several long-range jumpers. Aliso fell behind quick, and found themselves down 37-20 at the half.
Aliso Niguel started out the second half on a 7-0 run; however, the combined shooting of Watts and Mowers was too much for the Wolverines to overcome.