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Big fourth quarter pushes Mira Monte to D-IV semifinals

On a night where consistency proved hard to come by, getting Brian Perez Lopez the ball behind the 3-point line proved to be the winning formula for Mira Monte.

Perez Lopez had a team-best 19 points off the bench, and sparked big rallies in the first and fourth quarter as the fourth-seeded Lions advanced in the Division IV Central Section Boys Basketball Tournament with a 77-70 win over No. 5 Reedley in Bakersfield Friday night.

The Lions looked primed for a comfortable win early, as a 17-1 run gave them a 22-12 lead at the end of the first quarter. That run was sparked by a pair of Perez Lopez triples.

But after chipping away at the lead from that point on, the Pirates, who were led by a 28-point effort from Marcus Heinrichs, had taken a 52-51 lead going into the final quarter.

That lead was gone in mere seconds, as Perez Lopez got an open look from the left wing and connected on his fifth 3-pointer of the night on the first possession of the final quarter.

"I work on my shot every day and just try to keep it consistent," Perez Lopez said after the game. "I try my best to keep it as consistent as possible (and) it just falls."

He got plenty of help in the fourth quarter, as the Lions scored on their first six possessions, finishing the period with 26 points. 

For the game, six Mira Monte players had at least eight points, with Perez Lopez, Jlen Slaughter (15), Sebastian Marbaugh (12) and Eduardo Mercado (11) all scoring in double figures.

“Past teams, we’ve had maybe one or two guys that are the guy," Lion coach Miguel Valera said. "On this team, we have really good guys one through five, then six, seven, eight are just right there as well. We rely on everybody.”

That balance proved critical as the team was able to find its footing after stagnating offensively at times in the second and third quarters and Valera says it will be critical to maintain as they head to semifinal play on June 9.

“We kind of let it get away from us for a second," he said. "We started playing a little hero ball and then we got assist after assist, shot after shot. When we share the ball and it’s all kind of cohesive. We share the ball, we play defense. We started being who we are.

"They start to remember how good their teammates are and when we do that, we’re hard to beat.”