By Fred Robledo ~ SGV Tribune
La Mirada’s Jalen Cole got the Matadores going with his hot shooting and it was the difference in the end in a 65-59 victory over Los Altos in the championship of the Covina Boys Basketball tournament on Monday night.
Cole helped the Matadores built a 10-point first-quarter lead with five three-pointers in the quarter, and he finished with seven three-pointers and a game-high 25 points as the Matadores improved to 10-7 while handing the Conquerors (12-2) only their second loss of the season.
“He (Cole) can really shoot the ball,” La Mirada coach Randy Oronoz said. “We’ve been challenging him on the defensive end and he’s been stepping up. He pushed us early on in the tournament and hit big shots and that is something that we needed and he anchored us all tournament long.”
George Ochoa had 18 points for La Mirada and Jalen Reyes had 10. Los Altos was led by Devin Lewis’ 20 points and Aibigho Ujadughlele had 18 points.
The Matadores’ had lost some tough games earlier in the season, but were able to close out in crunch time during the Covina tournament to win four straight.
“Our boys are battle tested,” Oronoz said. “We lost a ton of close games early in the year. We’re very youthful, we got about five sophomores that play minutes, but we had senior leadership that really carried us all tournament. It’s great to see guys step up and win close games that we were losing earlier in the year.”
Los Altos, which trailed by as much as 12, cut La Mirada’s lead to two early in the fourth quarter, but a 7-0 run by La Mirada, which included a Cole 3-pointer, pushed the Matadores’ lead back to 10 points.
Los Altos managed a final push with John Corina’s 3-pointer with 12 seconds left cutting La Mirada’s lead to 61-59.
But Cole hit a pair of free throws with 11 seconds left to close it out.
And it was Cole who got it going early, hitting four three-pointers in the first five minutes for an 18-6 lead, and they led 25-15 after one.
La Mirada extended its lead to 12, but the Conquerors chipped away and pulled within two points on freshman Jazz Gardner’s bucket with a minute left until half, and the Conquerors only trailed 37-33 at the break.
The Matadores’ hot shooting continued in the third quarter and they build a nine-point lead. But Los Altos’ Ujadughele answered with back to back 3-point plays to cut their deficit to 49-46 in the final minute of the quarter.