Despite Late Rally, Murrieta Valley Falls to Paloma Valley

#42 Austin Bryant shoots over two Paloma Valley defenders In a battle between Paloma Valley High School and Murrieta Valley High School...

#42 Austin Bryant shoots over two Paloma Valley defenders
In a battle between Paloma Valley High School and Murrieta Valley High School, the Wildcats squeaked by in the end to defeat the Nighthawks, 53-50. Promising to be a battle of defensive-minded teams, this game did not let down their fans.

Murrieta Valley (6-7) came out focusing on their game in the paint, but had trouble against Paloma Valley's (6-10) defense that wouldn't back down. On the other hand, Paloma Valley came out shooting, but couldn't consistently hit a shot from the outside in the first quarter.

Both teams came out strong defensively in the first quarter, holding each other to single digit scoring. After one quarter of play, the score was only 8-7, in Murrieta Valley's favor.

Both teams picked up the pace in the second, but often found themselves trading points in long stretches. In a one minute stretch, the Nighthawks' Austin Bryant and the Wildcats' Austin Hankins, scored 4 points each, while in a run-and-gun style of basketball.

With 4:22 left in the second quarter and Murrieta Valley up 16-15, Paloma Valley broke out in a 7-1 scoring run, led by senior Izaiah Cameron (pictured left), putting them up 22-16 within three minutes.

In the last minute and a half of the second quarter, Murrieta showed they still had fight left in them, by pushing the ball in the paint and which put them in the bonus. Although they only shot 2-for-7 from the foul line in the first half, the Nighthawks were able to grab the offensive rebounds from the missed free throws and put the ball in the basket. Along with two steals in the last seconds of the quarter by sophomore Jalen Newble, the Nighthawks kept the score close after the half, 25-20.

The third quarter featured scoring runs by both teams. Down 29-20 with seven minutes left, Murrieta Valley went on a 7-1 scoring that lasted five minutes, leaving the score at 30-27, with 1:50 left in the third. This scoring run was punctuated by a monster dunk by Austin Bryant that made the hometown fans jump onto their feet.

"He's a great player," said Wildcats' Coach Michael Pfeiffer after the game, when asked about Murrieta Valley's Austin Bryant. "He's an incredible player down low and he's just hard to stop. You just got to make him work for it."

Led by senior Manny Sandoval, the Wildcats went on their own 7-2 scoring run in the last 1:50 of the third quarter. Their run was punctuated by senior London Hoxie, who hit a buzzer beater from 3-point territory while being fouled. Unfortunately for the Wildcats, Hoxie was not able to complete the 4-point play when he missed the free throw, putting the score at 37-29.

Down by 8, Murrieta Valley decided to go back to their inside game at the start of the fourth quarter, but were stopped by the Paloma Valley defense. With four minutes left in the game, Murrieta Valley found themselves down 47-35.

Down by 12 with only four minutes left, it would have been easy for the Nighthawks to give up. Instead, they came out firing from downtown, led by senior Jacob Forte, who scored 10 points in the fourth.

"That's why we play Murrieta Valley," Coach Pfeiffer said about Murrieta Valley basketball. "They're a great program and we respect their coaches, their school, and their kids. They're always going to come at you."

Cutting into Paloma Valley's lead, with only 55 seconds left in the game, the Nighthawks found themselves down only 3, with the score at 50-47, after Forte drilled a clutch 3-pointer.

With 23 seconds left in the game, Murrieta Valley's Luke Armbruster stepped up on defense and took a charge from Cameron Whatley.

Whatley (pictured right) produced a big play of his own, stealing a pass made by Forte and being fouled shortly afterward. Whatley hit one of his two foul shots, to put Paloma Valley up 51-47, with 11 seconds left.

After a timeout, the Nighthawks went back to their inside game, by feeding Bryant in the paint, but his short jumper missed and the Wildcats' Izaiah Cameron grabbed the rebound with 5 seconds left. In the process of grabbing the rebound Cameron was fouled, putting him on the line.

Cameron sunk both of his free throws, giving Paloma Valley a 6 point lead, at 53-47.

Short on time, Forte was able to hit a buzzer beater shot for 3, but it was not enough, putting the final score at 53-50.

"It came down to defensive stops," said Coach Pfeiffer. "If we're going to focus on defense and be a defensive-oriented team, you have to trust that you can make stops down the stretch. We're young and we've had trouble making defensive stops in the past, but not tonight. We showed growth and made defensive stops down the stretch when we needed."

Notable performances by Paloma Valley players included 17 points scored by Izaiah Cameron and 10 points scored by Manny Sandoval. Murrieta Valley had stellar performances by Austin Bryant who scored 24 points and Jacob Forte, who scored 17 points.

Next up for Murrieta Valley, they will face Elsinore (9-5) at home, on Jan. 9. For Paloma Valley, they will go against Lakeside (9-6) at home, on Jan. 8.

#21 Jacob Forte takes the ball into the frontcourt with #44 Cameron Whatley defending
# 3 Jacob Zandi shoots over #20 Izaiah Cameron
#10 Manny Sandoval take the ball to the basket over #42 Austin Bryant and #14 Jalen Newble


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