AJ Ornelas (2) defends Matthew Mukai during the second quarter of Terra Nova's loss to Aragon.
Ethan Kassel

Versatile guards carry Aragon to first win

December 3, 2019

PACIFICA, Calif. — With just one true post player on their roster, the Aragon Dons have a need for strong interior play and rebounding from their guards.

Even with Matthew Mukai, the team’s most experienced returning player, sidelined from the second quarter onward with a sprained ankle, the Dons got the all-around play they needed from the guard positions to pick up their first win of the season, 61-52 over the Terra Nova Tigers.

“Being more physical has allowed me to get more shots and get to the line more,” said Alex Haas, who had 16 points, five assists and seven rebounds, hardly leaving the court after Mukai’s injury.

The combination of Haas, Jace Jeremiah, Dennis Fasnacht and Ryan Victor kept the Dons flowing at the guard positions while center Murphy Caffo went to work inside, finishing with eight points and 15 rebounds in what the junior described as one of his worst games. Caffo missed five of his six free throw attempts but was instrumental in outmuscling Terra Nova (1-1) in the post.

“I’ve been lifting weights and getting stronger all summer,” he said. “Rebounding’s a big part of my game.”

Aragon held a 42-21 rebounding advantage, including a 15-8 edge on the offensive glass to compensate for a lack of outside shooting. The Dons made just one 3-pointer all night, which Victor knocked down for the first points of the night, but were able to control the lane with backdoor passes as the Tigers tried to force turnovers. Jeremiah finished with a team-high 18 points, continuing the roll he had started by scoring 10 in the fourth quarter of a comeback effort in a season-opening loss to Stuart Hall. His layup in the first minute of the second quarter put the visitors up 14-13, and they’d lead the entire rest of the way. Caffo’s and-1 with 1:40 left in the third made it 41-29, and the lead grew as large as 15 in the fourth as Aragon (1-1) got back-to-back transition buckets from Fasnacht and Haas.

“We focused more on our offense in the half-court,” head coach Hosea Patton said. “They pressed, we got out in transition and got easy baskets.”

Terra Nova wasn’t done, though. Justin Milch scored 19 of his game-high 25 in the second half, sparking a 13-2 run to get the Tigers back into the game with an elbow jumper off a crossover dribble that faked out the Aragon defender. His 3-pointer made it 53-49 with just under two minutes left, but an open layup for Caffo and Jeremiah basket on the next possession put the game away.

“They ran their offense pretty well,” Tigers head coach Kenny Milch, Justin’s father, said. “We couldn’t get stops when we needed them at the critical times.”

The hosts also got 10 points from Bourgan Guibadoulline and seven from AJ Ornelas, including a four-point play in the second quarter.

Terra Nova returns to action Tuesday night at San Mateo (2-0), while Aragon will play in the opening game of the Bud Bresnahan Blue and Gold Classic on Thursday at Jefferson against Wallenberg (1-0).

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