June 15, 2024

OC Sports Zone: Community First

Tustin holds off late Tesoro rally to reach tournament finals for first time since 2014

Junior guard Johnny Villagrana led Tustin to a semifinal victory Friday night. (Photo: Tim Burt, OC Sports Zone).

Tustin High School’s boys basketball team held on for a 42-39 victory over Tesoro Friday night in the second semifinal of the Tustin Classic to earn a trip to the tournament finals for the first time since 2014.

Tustin won the tournament that year led by former star TJ Shorts.

The Tillers will face Los Alamitos Saturday night at 7:30 for the championship.

Tustin (11-6) was in control for most of the game Friday before Tesoro (7-10) made a late charge.

“They made two incredible comebacks the last two nights so you knew the run was coming,” said Tustin Coach Ringo Bossenmeyer. “It’s just a matter of whether we could withstand it. We made some clutch shots down the stretch by Terrelle (Morales) and Johnny V (Villagrana) so it’s a good growing experience for us going into league.”

The Tillers had what appeared to be a comfortable 39-28 lead with 3:19 left in the game following a three-point play by Carson Jue. But Tesoro battled back by forcing turnovers and converting baskets to cut the lead to two points late in the game.

However, Tustin’s offensive leader Johnny Villagrana, who scored a game high 25 points, sank two free throws with 4.5 seconds left to put the Tillers ahead 42-39. After a timeout, Tesoro attempted a game tying 3-point shot but the attempt fell off the rim as time expired.

Dean Mika led Tesoro’s comeback bid in the fourth quarter scoring five points in the final stanza and wound up with a team high 14 points for a Tesoro team that had many players graduate from last year’s CIF championship team. Adam Smaili added 10 points for Coach Steve Garrett’s team.

Defense turned out to be the difference for Tustin, which led 21-11 at halftime and 33-24 after three quarters.

“I thought obviously the key was making it difficult for them and we got back in transition D and limited their easy shot opportunities,” Bossenmeyer said. “Our defense was sound all night, we were making it difficult for them to score and only giving them one shot. By and large, we did a pretty good job offensively, when there was zone offense early on or when they went back to man.

“The one issue we have to work on is taking care of the ball down the stretch.”

Villagrana, the only Tiller in double figures, continued his consistent play with one of his best games of the season.

“He had seven or eight rebounds as well as the points,” Bossenmeyer said. “He’s made huge strides in his game, especially on the defensive side, since his sophomore year.”

Villagrana was pleased to see the Tillers advance.

“It was a good, hard fought game, Tesoro played good and towards the end they came out and pressed us, we responded, next game we play Los Al, it’s a tough match-up, but we just got to rest up, eat and get ready for tomorrow,” VIllagrana said.

In the end, the defensive work paid off.

“That’s (defense) what we do all the time, we always work on defense,” he said. “It showed, they didn’t have too many transition lay-ups or threes but we stopped them pretty good.

Bossenmeyer said his players will be excited to compete against a high scoring Los Alamitos team Saturday.

“We’re glad to have the opportunity to get back into the finals,” he said. “Obviously it will be a huge challenge playing Los Alamitos, they’re putting up big numbers on everybody they play, so we will just get prepared and go out and make our community proud and make our families proud and make ourselves proud with the effort we give.”

Bossenmeyer said he believes that’s the only year that Tustin has won the Tustin Classic title.

Calvary Chapel will meet Tesoro in the third place game at 6 p.m.

—Tim Burt, OC Sports Zone; timburt@ocsportszone.com