MISSION VIEJO — Creating a mismatch is one thing, completely changing the game’s outcome is another. Isaac Neilson managed to do both Tuesday night in a Southern Section Division 2AA boys' basketball quarterfinal.
The 6-foot-10 senior center for Mission Viejo finished with 20 points, 17 rebounds and seven blocked shots in the 71-54 victory against visiting Ontario Colony. And those were just the numbers found in the box score. He did a lot more to perplex the Titans.
“He altered all of our shots,” said Colony junior guard Miles Poullard, who managed a team-high 16 points.
Neilson, who has signed with Brigham Young but first plans to take a two-year LDS mission when he turns 19 in December, caused the Titans to throw up some wild shots nearly every time they penetrated Mission Viejo’s zone defense. They didn’t have much luck hitting from outside, either.
The 10th-seeded Titans (20-10) made an effort to crash the offensive boards, but Neilson would usually claim the rebound and quickly start an odd-numbered fast break with a crisp outlet pass.
“It helped that we went up and down the court,” Neilson said. “They got three guys on you, just like that, so you have to quickly get the ball out.”
Colony scored the first six points of the game on fast-break opportunities but the second-seeded Diablos (28-1) quickly adjusted and took their first lead with 2 ½ minutes remaining in the opening quarter. Mission Viejo carried a 7-0 run into the second quarter to take an 18-14 lead it would never surrender.
After falling behind by as many as 10 in the second quarter, the Titans scored the last five points of the first half and trailed, 32-29, at the intermission. That was as close as Colony would get, however. The Diablos scored the first four points of the second half and stretched the lead to 14 by the end of the third quarter.
Colony coach Jerry De Fabiis struggled to guard Neilson with his lone big man, 6-6 senior Chris Mays, so he elected to go with a small lineup and Neilson and the Diablos made him pay for that too.
“We thought that was about the only way we could try and get the tempo up,” De Fabiis said. “We needed to try and get back in the game, pressure them, and that worked at the end of the half but the second half they were good enough to know how to get the ball through.”
Michael Cramer contributed 19 points and Evan Zeller had 13 for Mission Viejo, which moves on to the semifinals Friday. The Diablos will play sixth-seeded Fontana Summit, a winner against third-seeded Anaheim Canyon, at an alternate site to be determined.