With a trip to the CIF-Southern Section Open Division semifinals at stake, Santa Margarita and Bishop Montgomery battled in a highly anticipated matchup.
Tuesday night's contest lived up to the expectations, as a highly competitive contest saw the Knights sneak out of Santa Margarita's home floor with a 57-54 victory.
Six-foot-5 senior guard Ethan Thompson led all scorers with a dominant 21-point performance for Bishop Montgomery.
"I tried to get to my spots on the court and find mismatches," he said. "We're just thankful that we got out of here with the win, but we have to come out stronger next round."
David Singleton also chipped in for Montgomery, adding a solid 14 points. For the Eagles, sophomore forward Jake Kyman (13 points) shot extremely well throughout the entire contest. Senior captain Adrease Jackson also stepped up big time for SM, pouring in 20 points.
"We didn't play great -- credit goes to Bishop Montgomery," Head coach Jeff Reinert said after his team's loss. "We fought back, got down double digits, but stayed with it."
But it wasn't enough.
With just over 6:50 remaining and trailing 48-43, Santa Margarita was doing its best to stay in it. But Montgomery's Ethan Thompson hit shot after shot, torching the SM defense from the outside. Margarita continued to hang tough, however, and gained some momentum with a key basket late from Jackson. Jake Kyman committed a turnover late that led to a Thompson slam, which gave Montgomery a 57-49 lead with just over two minutes left.
Santa Margarita decided to change things up on the defensive end, and swarmed Montgomery with a half-court trap. This certainly caught Montgomery off guard, and Jackson capitalized for Santa Margarita by drawing a foul on the other end. After two made free throws, SM found themselves down just three, 57-54, with 41.9 seconds remaining. Margarita came out in a full court press, and managed to steal the ball right back and give themselves a shot. After a Kyman missed three, offensive rebound, and Coach Reinert timeout, SM had one final chance to tie it with just few seconds left. Jackson got a decent look, but the ball rattled out and Santa Margarita's dreams of contending for a CIF crown came to an end.
From the beginning of the third quarter, Montgomery had a solid lead and seemed unable to miss from the field. Thompson kept exploiting the SM defense, while Jackson looked to post up in the paint for Margarita. SM had a clear size advantage inside, and Kyman's terrific outside shooting kept them in the game.
Both teams played extremely fast straight from the tip, with Kyman and Thompson getting off to solid starts for their respective teams. Montgomery began to effectively score from the outside toward the end of the first quarter, and led 15-12 at the conclusion of the period.
The second quarter saw Montgomery make several crucial loose ball plays, snatching every opportunity. Thompson continued his early success with a buzzer beater to send Montgomery into the half with a 29-25 advantage, and much needed momentum.