Johnson's Play Helps Lead Vista Murrieta to Win over Poly

Armani Mills drives to the basket during Vista Murrieta's victory at Riverside Poly Wednesday night. Photos by Daniel Millhouse ...

Armani Mills drives to the basket during Vista Murrieta's victory at Riverside Poly Wednesday night.
Photos by Daniel Millhouse

Story updated to indicate that Vista Murrieta is at home Friday night in the second round.

By Daniel Millhouse

Entering the game as the underdog, the Vista Murrieta High School boys basketball team defeated the host Bears of Riverside Poly, 60-52, in the first round of the CIF-SS Div 1A playoffs Wednesday night.

In the closing seconds of the third quarter, with the game tied at 40, senior Dwayne Johnson caught an alley-oop pass from out of bounds by Michael Carongcong and dunked the ball. This gave the Broncos not only the lead, but a much-needed energy boost to take with them into the final quarter, which eventually gave them the win.

"That is a set play for us," Vista Murrieta coach Andy Rucker said of the alley-oop pass to Johnson. "Actually, they were defending it pretty hard out here, so I called an invert, which it goes to the guy underneath. I don’t know, that was just big-time. He did that all on his own, really."

With the visiting fans chanting, "Let’s go Broncos!" in unison, Vista Murrieta (16-11) started the game with a 7-0 scoring run in the first three and a half minutes of the game. Led by Johnson’s seven points in the first quarter, the Broncos also put together a 5-0 scoring run as well, but fought to hold off the Bears, who surged in the final seconds. After one quarter of play, the score was 19-15.

Playing a tougher defense in the second quarter, Poly (19-9) battled hard enough to take the lead midway through the quarter when sophomore Tobin Kund came off the bench and hit back-to-back three-pointers, giving his team a two-point lead.

"The biggest thing we said was that we need to outscore them because of the way they play defense," Rucker responded when asked about what he said to his team at halftime. "They hold teams in the 40s and we needed to get the game into the upper 50s or 60s."

Senior Marcus Gonzalez (left) helped Vista Murrieta stay in the game, hitting two three-pointers of his own in the second quarter to offset Kund’s shooting.

Down by one point with three seconds left in the half, Johnson put in a layup to give his team a 31-30 lead going into halftime.

Both teams came out tough defensively in the third quarter. Poly’s Dylan McDowell put up eight of his team’s 10 points in the quarter on layups and baby jump hooks. The Broncos, thanks to Johnson’s quarter-ending dunk, scored 11 points in the third and took a 42-40 lead into the fourth quarter.

McDowell continued to be a force in the paint, scoring six more points in the fourth along with his teammate Tyler Simmons, who also added six points.

"Fifty-five (McDowell) is good, but he’s just a big kid," Rucker replied when asked about the individual players that played well for the Bears. "We doubled-down when he got the ball, too."

The Bears kept the game close until a little over five minutes remained in the game. Down by two, Simmons went to the foul line, but missed both of his free throw attempts.

Taking possession, the Broncos proceeded to go on another scoring run, this time a 9-0 run which included a Carongcong three-pointer and back-to-back layups by Nate Duran.

Poly couldn’t close the scoring gap, never coming closer than three points, when Simmons hit a 10-foot jumper with 1:01 left on the clock.

In the final minute of the game, Vista Murrieta went on a 7-2 scoring run to win the game by eight.

Notable Broncos performances include 12 points scored by Johnson and Gonzalez’s 12 points, 9 of which came from three-pointers. Simmons and McDowell each scored 17 points for Poly.

Vista Murrieta will be at home to face the Empire League champion Cypress Centurions (20-9) in the second round of the playoffs on Friday at 7 p.m.

Vista Murrieta's Dwayne Johnson leaps to contest a shot by a Riverside Poly player.

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Vista Murrieta High School 8974877752321643777

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