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Monarchs erase late deficit to move atop Grossmont Valley

SPRING VALLEY – In a battle for first place in the Grossmont Valley league, Monte Vista spent most of the game trailing Mount Miguel but ended up on top. The visiting Monarchs rallied in the fourth quarter to knock off the 10th-ranked Matadors 48-46 on Wednesday night and move into the league’s top spot.

“It’s very important,” said Monte Vista senior forward James Jackson. “There hasn’t been a league patch on our wall since 1996, and that’s too many years to not have a patch up there. We’re trying to do it in our senior year.”

Monte Vista (17-6, 4-0 Grossmont Valley) fell behind 11-3 to start the game and trailed 15-14 at the end of the first quarter. At halftime Mount Miguel (19-4, 3-1) led 27-25, and the Matadors led by four after a slow third quarter in which the teams combined for 14 points.

“They played decent defense tonight and they hit some threes and some ‘and one’ buckets that were real momentum changers,” Jackson said. “We just had to counter that.”

Monte Vista trailed Mount Miguel 41-36 with less than four minutes left in the fourth quarter, and used full-court pressure to mount a comeback and score 10 straight points. Jackson put the Monarchs ahead 42-41 with 3:00 left by spinning into the lane and sinking a one-handed floater, and after a steal on the ensuing inbounds pass the 6-foot-8 senior made a layup that gave Monte Vista a three-point lead.

“It was a steal, bucket, and game over basically,” Jackson said.

After senior power forward Devin Rendo made a reverse layup with 1:15 remaining to put Monte Vista ahead 48-43, the Monarchs had to hang on for the victory. Mount Miguel junior guard Izzy Wagner hit a three-pointer to make it a two-point game with 46.9 seconds left and after a defensive stop the Matadors had a chance, but couldn’t get a shot off before time expired.

“In the fourth quarter I told my team that they had to play like it was going to be the last time they ever strapped on their shoes, and it was going to be us or them,” Jackson said. “We wanted it bad, so we came out with the win.”

Jackson scored 18 to lead Monte Vista, and finished as one of three Monarchs in double figures. Monte Vista sits alone atop the Grossmont Valley League at the halfway point and hasn’t lost to an East County opponent this season.

“People have been coming up to me and asking if I was scared of Mount Miguel and all kinds of stuff like that,” Jackson said.” We came into this season talking about losing no games in league, and right now we haven’t lost in crossover or in league, so we’re doing pretty well.”

Monte Vista has won seven straight games and 10 of its last 11. The Monarchs are gaining momentum at the right time of the season, and are now in the driver’s seat for a league crown.

“We have to come out and play strong on defense and execute offensively, and we’ll be fine,” Jackson said. “We’re bigger and stronger than everybody else, so we just have to utilize that.”

Wagner led Mount Miguel with a game-high 19 points. Senior forward Thomas Butler added 15 for the Matadors, who lost their first league game at home in two seasons.

Monte Vista – 48 (14-11-6-17)

Jackson 18, Nwando 10, Houston 8, Daniels 2, Luster 0 (starters) Rendo 10

Mount Miguel – 46 (15-12-8-11)

Wagner 19, Butler 15, Littleton 7, Booker 5, Wills 0 (starters)

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Pictured: Mount Miguel guard Izzy Wagner goes up for a shot in the lane against Monte Vista guard K.J. Houston

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