The Mission Prep boys basketball team used solid defense, timely shooting and clutch free throws to remain undefeated early in the year and hand Atascadero its first loss, 74-65, Friday night at the Arroyo Grande Optimist Tournament.
Junior Quinton Adlesh scored a team-high 21 points for the Royals (3-0), including a six-point spurt in the final 30 seconds of the first half to give his team a commanding 14-point lead.
“We knew Atascadero was the team to beat (in the county), so this means a lot for us,” said Adlesh, who went 6 of 7 from the foul line and grabbed 10 rebounds. “We knew it was a big game, so we just wanted to come out and execute.”
Robbie Berwick poured in a game-high 27 points for the Greyhounds (2-1), who got to the rim in the second half, but couldn’t pull any closer than six.
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“The best way to put it is that it just wasn’t our night,” said Berwick, a 6-foot-4 guard bound for Florida State in the fall. “We’re still getting into our rhythm (this year) ... but we took some bad shots and we all weren’t hitting.”
While Atascadero couldn’t get open looks to fall, Mission Prep seemingly couldn’t miss when it needed a basket the most.
Senior Ben Covington and freshman Kyle Stewart joined Adlesh as Royals who hit three 3-pointers.
Covington, who broke his nose less than a week ago and was forced to wear a protective mask, also hit seven free throws in the fourth quarter and drew the assignment of guarding Berwick, the reigning County Player of the Year.
According to Mission Prep coach Terrance Harris, Covington filled the role admirably.
“Best game Ben Covington has ever played as a Mission Prep Royal,” the coach said definitively. “I’m very proud of that kid. He battled on defense the entire game.”
Covington finished with 16 points as did Stewart, a 6-3 newcomer who showed poise down the stretch, scoring 14 in the second half.
“That’s impressive,” said Adlesh of Stewart’s performance. “That’s big guts. Props to him.”
The Greyhounds turned the ball over just twice in the second half and outscored the Royals 33-27 in the fourth, but it was too little, too late.
“We weren’t attacking as much as we should have early,” Atascadero coach Matt Knudson said. “In the fourth, we started attacking and we got easier shots. We were a little stagnant early.”
Mission Prep outscored Atascadero in every other quarter, including 24-12 in the second.
“We’re very happy with this win. We know Atascadero is a very good team and a respected opponent,” Harris said. “We saw glimpses of what our team is capable of tonight, but we also know that we’re only three games into the season and it’s a long road ahead of us.”
Joe Johnson and Kevin Woodard each had 11 points for the Greyhounds.
With both teams in the double-bonus early on in the fourth quarter, the final five minutes took close to half an hour to complete as players took turns making trips to the free-throw line.
But it was at the end of the second quarter where six crucial points were scored in the blink of an eye.
Following a layup by Mission Prep’s Kerney Lane to increase the Royals’ early lead to 28-20, Knudson called a timeout with 30.8 seconds remaining in the half to give the Greyhounds one final possession.
With Berwick taking a breather on the bench, Adlesh intercepted a pass and raced down the other end, scoring a bucket plus a foul with 2.2 seconds left on the clock.
He still wasn’t done in the half, either. After hitting the free throw, the junior stole the ensuing inbounds pass and launched a shot from just shy of halfcourt.
The ball swished through the hoop, giving Adlesh two steals and six points in 30 seconds and the Royals all the momentum heading into the locker room up 34-20.
“Lucky shot,” Adlesh said with a laugh.
Knudson said that sequence isn’t what doomed the Greyhounds, but both sides knew the six-point swing made a large impact.
“That was a big stretch for us to give us a little bit of space going into the half,” Harris said. “It gave us a little energy and a little excitement.”
Added Berwick: “That buried us. I think if that didn’t happen, we would have had a way better chance of winning at the end.”
It’s only the third game for the teams, so both squads left knowing that there’s still plenty of work left to be done.
“We respect the heck out of Atascadero. We know they will contend for a
PAC 7 title, so it’s a good win for our program,” Harris said. “But we want to stay focused. It’s a very long season, and we want to take steps toward being a great team in February.”