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LA North and Orange County: Ventura 56, Mission Viejo 55 OT

3/5/2011

ANAHEIM -- Jared Wilson lined up with his feet positioned just beyond the 3-point arc and waited. He hoped the ball would eventually swing his way. And when it did, there was no hesitation.

Given the all-important opportunity, the senior hoisted up a shot. It ended up dropping too, giving the Ventura High boys' basketball team a one-point lead with less than two minutes left in overtime of a Southern Section Division 2AA championship game against Mission Viejo.

The basket was indeed pivotal. It provided the Cougars all the momentum they would need en route to a 56-55 title-clinching victory at the Anaheim Convention Center.

“Jared has made some big shots for us and that was a big one,'' Ventura coach Dan Larson said. “This was a great game with both teams giving 100 percent till the very end.''

Top-seeded Ventura (29-2) and second-seeded Mission Viejo (29-2) went back and forth in the fourth quarter, with the lead exchanging hands several times.

Dylan Houck hit several timely free throws for Ventura.

James Cramer countered for the Diablos. He knocked down four consecutive free throws, each more important than the last, to send the game into overtime.

Houck and teammate Jon McMurry put the game out of reach by making a combined four straight free throws in the waning moments.

“I tried to block everything out, but it was hard, I was nervous, I was shaking at the line,'' Houck said. “I'm just glad that I got my shots to fall, that's all.''

Corey Quintana opened the second half with a sense of urgency and made two 3-pointers as Ventura trimmed the lead, 30-29, with 5:20 left in the third quarter.

Isaac Neilson made his presence felt shortly thereafter. A rebound and a put back gave Mission Viejo a four-point lead. Another rebound and a subsequent outlet pass to Cramer led to a layup and increased the advantage to 36-30 at the end of the third quarter.

Aside from that stretch, Neilson was held in check on the offensive end. The 6-foot-10 senior, who has committed to Brigham Young, ended up with six points, on 3-for-9 shooting, well below his average. He did contribute in other ways and finished with 17 rebounds and five blocks.

“I can't remember scoring six points in a game this season,'' Neilson said. “I felt like they were trying to surround me every time I touched the ball inside.''

Evan Zeller got things going in the second quarter and his 3-pointer and layup gave the Diablos a 21-17 advantage with 3:57 left before the halftime break.

A Jaheel Pinner layup toward the end of the first half increased the lead to five points at intermission and swayed the momentum in Mission Viejo's favor.

Josh Tice came off the bench to provide a spark early on for the Cougars. He scored a pair of baskets to give Ventura a 7-6 lead with 2:31 left in the first quarter.

The Diablos answered when Cramer converted a layup in traffic to give Mission Viejo a three-point advantage with 30 seconds left in the opening quarter.

Not to be outdone, McMurry buried a 3-pointer from out on the wing before the buzzer sounded and the teams went into the second quarter tied at 12-12.

“My 3-pointer was kind of lucky, I mean I got a good look at the basket, but I was surprised that it went in,'' McMurry said. “That shot gave us momentum.''

McMurry finished with 15 points. Houck had eight points, as did Quintana. Wilson added 10 points and Tice had four points of his own.

Zeller 22 points. Cramer added 12 points.

Sean Ceglinsky covers preps for ESPNLosAngeles.com. Follow him on Twitter.