Elk Grove storms back to down Metea Valley

 
By Howard Schlossberg
Daily Herald Correspondent
Updated 2/11/2020 9:48 PM

Elk Grove's boys basketball team believes in the improbable, and Tuesday night, the improbable happened.

The Grenadiers, just 3-21 coming in to host taller, deeper Metea Valley, rallied from 17 points down in the third quarter to pull off a -- yes, improbable win -- 49-47, outscoring the Mustangs 16-4 over the last five minutes to do it.

 

Devin McKinney, who hit what would become the game-winning basket with 50 seconds left, says the Grens have not given up on their season nor on themselves.

"We stayed solid," said the senior forward, a former freshman B player who has become a varsity leader. As to going up against a team with three times more wins and virtually three times more height, position for position, "We don't look at records," he continued. "We just play."

His game-winning play came in a rare matchup with a shorter player on him after a switch, as he took a pass in the post, which his defender stretched to deflect and missed. McKinney subsequently turned and laid the ball in before the Mustangs' bigs could recover.

And the Mustangs' bigs were killers. Tajh Morgan, off the bench, had 16 points and hit his last 6 shots, all around the basket, where the 6-foot-3 forward was virtually uncontainable. His shooting and 6-5 Alex Moreno's (11 points) had given Metea Valley (9-13) a seemingly unchallengeable 40-23 lead late in the third quarter.

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"We were trying to make their catches (in the post) tougher," said Elk Grove coach Nick Oraham, "but we didn't execute it until the end of the third quarter and then in the fourth."

The Grens closed the third with the final 6 points on 3-pointers by Brandon Burns off the bench and Mark Matos (10 points), his second of the game.

And then the improbable occurred. Jordan Miller (14 points) hit a 3. Burns hit a breakaway layup after a feed on one of Metea Valley's 21 turnovers. Miller had another 3, this one the old-fashioned way, scoring inside. McKinney hit a jumper and after Miller hit 2 free throws, somehow, the Grens were within 47-45 and Metea Valley hadn't scored since midway through the quarter.

What took the Grens (4-21) so long to catch up? Metea Valley's height? Depth? "Their physicality," said Oraham, after watching the Mustangs sometimes play volleyball on the offensive boards. They would wind up outrebounding Elk Grove, 26-14, although it was 7-7 in the second half against an Elk Grove team that refused to back down.

And then came the daggers. After Metea Valley's 20th turnover, Matos hit a jumper to tie it. After its 21st, McKinney made his play. The Grens gave deadeye Myles Leavy (10 points) a tough look at a 3 to close to the game and hang on.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

"We really buckled down defensively at the end of the third quarter and then in the fourth," said Oraham.

McKinney put it a little differently though. "We've worked too hard. We fought through adversity."

Or maybe he meant improbability.

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