By Stephen Ramirez
@SteveRRamirez on Twitter
HACIENDA HEIGHTS — Checkmate.
Zuri Williams scored 16 points and Lawrence Besong had 14 and Walnut High School put the chase for the Hacienda League boys basketball championship to rest with a 64-60 victory at Los Altos on Monday night.
The Mustangs, ranked No. 1 in the area this week, won their 12th consecutive game to improve to 20-5 overall and 10-0 in league play. Albert Jelowicki also had 10 points for Walnut. Los Altos, getting 16 points from Michael Barrera and 12 points and eight rebounds from Jayson Jones, slipped to 16-8 and 5-5.
Walnut, after outscoring Los Altos, 27-14, in the third quarter, looked like it might cruise to the title. But Los Altos found it’s rhythm in the fourth quarter. The Conquerors put to together a 16-6 surge to pull within 57-56 with 2:27 remaining following consecutive 3-pointers by Barrera and a free throw by Calvin Kao.
But like it did in a 65-55 victory over the Conquerors on Jan. 22. Walnut came up big down the stretch to seal the victory. Besong scored on a drive to the basket to push it to 59-56 at 2:37 before he made one of two free throws for a 60-56 lead with 2:15 to play.
The Mustangs, who were 16 of 29 from the free throw line, made four of six free throws in the final minute to clinch it.
Walnut coach Josh Cameron: “It took us about three years to get going,” said Walnut coach Josh Cameron. Once we did, we made some good runs. We made it to the quarterfinals three years ago, but we never had a chance to win league. It means the world to me, it means the world to all these guys who were here when they were freshman and sophomores. We committed to each other that this was going to be the team that finally turns the tide. We did it. I’m very proud of these guys.”
Los Altos coach Jeff Lucas: “We made a great run. We told our team after that they put in a great effort. A effort is always nice, but it’s not the W. We gave them too many points in transition. It kind of hurts, because we feel they didn’t earn it. We gave it to them with those turnovers.”
Zuri Williams: “We were able to hit some big shots down the stretch. We played some really good defense. With their point guard (Christian Espinoza) out, it definitely helped us.”