Montclair Prep entered Friday night's Alpha League showdown at L. A. Baptist as a renowned offensive team, but it was the Mounties' defense that keyed their 56-50 victory over the Knights.
With 6-8 senior David Sanger dominating inside and 6-2 swingman Craig Handschu (23 points) bombing from outside, Montclair Prep (11-6, 5-1 in league play) won its fifth consecutive game to tie L. A. Baptist for the league lead.
Sanger, who scored 10 points, tallied only two in the second half. But he took control of the inside with his rebounding and shot blocking, especially in the fourth quarter.
Montclair Prep was clinging to a 52-47 lead with 2:15 left when Sanger took over.
L. A. Baptist's James Hoback, who scored a team-high 15 points, attempted a 10-foot jump shot, but Sanger airmailed it back to him. After grabbing the rejection, Hoback went up again, this time from five feet away, but Sanger blocked it again.
Sanger's second swat started a Montclair Prep fast break that gave the Mounties a 54-47 lead.
"That was a real big play," Montclair Prep co-Coach Bob Webb said. "It takes a lot out of the other team when it looks like you're going to score and suddenly you don't."
Undaunted, L. A. Baptist (13-4, 5-1 in league play) went inside on its next possession, but Sanger rejected Hoback again. Teammate Mike Wise picked up the loose ball and was promptly rejected by Sanger, who recovered the loose ball and was fouled.
"I'm glad I was able to make the big plays when we needed them," said Sanger, who grabbed 15 rebounds and blocked 9 shots. "I'm just happy to win."
So was his coach.
"Strange things have happened to us in this building," Webb said with a sigh of relief. "We'll take a win here any way we can."
Montclair Prep, which led, 16-8, at the end of the first quarter, had L. A. Baptist on the ropes midway through the second period, but couldn't deliver the knockout punch.
The Mounties led, 29-17, but went scoreless in the last 3:30 of the quarter.
L. A. Baptist, meanwhile, scored on 6 of its last 7 possessions in the half, capped by Roger Hasper's layup with 10 seconds remaining. Hoback keyed the 11-0 spurt, scoring six points.