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Matthew Lickona 5 p.m., Dec. 9
In a game featuring two high-octane attacks, Vista simply had a little more left in the tank down the stretch. In a close game, the 7-seed Panthers made enough plays in the fourth quarter to pull away from 10-seed Granite Hills for an 86-77 win Tuesday night in the first round of the Division I playoffs.
“It was a close game and we knew we needed to step it up to keep our season alive,” said Vista guard Stephen Que. “We needed to do everything we could – kick, scratch, push – do what we had to do to move on.”
With five minutes to play, Granite Hills guard Andre Lewis hit two free throws to tie the game at 60 and it was anyone’s game. That’s when Vista went on a 10-2 run capped by a Sedrick Childress layup off a turnover.
“It was just heart,” Que said.
Following the run, the Panthers never led by less than seven in the final three minutes. Vista (19-8) had enough of a cushion in the final minute to absorb four Granite Hills three-pointers and still win comfortably.
“We took some ill-advised quick shots in certain situations when we should have been a little more selective,” said Granite Hills head coach Randy Anderson.
Both teams like to play at a frenetic pace and they were flying from the outset. Vista led 24-22 after a back-and-forth first quarter.
“It really doesn’t matter for us,” Que said about playing a fast team. “We play teams that push the ball, we faced teams that slow the ball down, so it really doesn’t matter.”
Both teams cooled off in the second quarter, with Vista scoring the final four points to take a 36-32 lead into the half. The Panthers also held a four-point lead headed into the fourth quarter, where they combined with Granite Hills (19-9) for 55 points.
“That’s the way we like to play, so we were happy with our matchup,” Anderson said. “It just didn’t work out this time.”
This first round game reflected the strength of this year’s Division I bracket. Both the Panthers and Eagles were ranked earlier in the season.
“It’s pretty deep every year,” Que said. “Division I has some of the best teams in the section.”
In addition to uptempo offenses, the game featured two of the more underrated senior guards in the section. Que won the battle against Lewis, scoring a game-high 34 points, including shooting 16-for-17 from the free throw line.
“We just had to come out here and work hard and play our game,” Que said.
Que was one of four Panthers in double figures, led by 16 points from Childress. Vista has now won four straight and will face second-seed Eastlake on Friday.
“Watch out for us Eastlake, because we’re coming,” Que said.
For Granite Hills, Lewis led the way with 29 in a losing effort. Forward Jason Gaines also turned in an excellent performance, scoring 28 points, including four three-pointers. The Eagles lost four straight games to end the season.
“We didn’t shoot that well, we didn’t knock down the open shot and could have attacked the rim a little better,” Anderson said.
Vista – 86 (24-12-20-30)
Que 34, Childress 16, Johnson 12, Fletcher 8, Brooks 2 (starter) Miller 14
Granite Hills – 77 (22-10-20-25)
Lewis 29, Gaines 28, Larch-Miller 15, Snyder 1, Otineru 0 (starters) Sadik 2, Atkinson 2
Vista guard Eric Miller drives against Granite Hills guard Garrett Larch-Miller