TORRANCE, Calif. —
In what head coach Douglas Mitchell described as his team's toughest test so far, Bishop Montgomery (Torrance, Calif.)
passed with flying colors Saturday night — a lesson learned from coming up short in the section quarterfinals the previous year.
Even without starting guard Larry Taylor III
, who didn't play because of a wrist injury, the Knights extended their season-opening winning streak to 19 games with a 74-63 victory over St. John Bosco (Bellflower, Calif.)
in a nonleague showdown between two Southern California and national powers.
Bishop Montgomery (19-0) came in No. 13 in the MaxPreps Xcellent 25 national rankings
and St. John Bosco (11-3) was No. 14.
"They have athletes at every position and that makes them really hard to stop," Mitchell said of St. John Bosco. "We kept responding whenever they scored points and didn't let them reel off four or five baskets in a row."
Senior forward Ognjen Miljkovic
scored 12 of his 23 points in the fourth quarter and Pepperdine signee Lamond Murray Jr.
added 18 points and 10 rebounds for the Knights, who led by five points after each of the first three quarters and withstood every St. John Bosco run in the final eight minutes to avenge their two-point loss at the buzzer last season.
"We picked up our help-side defense in the third quarter and that's what did it," said Miljkovic, who was 10 of 11 from the free throw line, including four straight that gave the Knights a 10-point lead with 2:22 left. "We talk about that all the time in practice and it showed up when we needed it most."
Taylor landed on his wrist in the third quarter of Bishop Montgomery's victory over Del Rey League rival Gardena Serra the night before and although an x-ray was negative, Mitchell said the wrist was "stiff and swollen" and the doctor advised Taylor not to play.
"It hurts our rotation because of Larry's intangibles -- he guards the other team's best player, he takes care of the ball, he gets everyone involved," Mitchell said of the Knights' top scorer, who was averaging 20 points per game. "We can replace his points but it's the other things he does that we miss most when he's not on the floor."
Senior guard Isaac Hamilton
, who has committed to UTEP, finished with 30 points and 10 rebounds to keep the host Braves close. Tyler Dorsey had 12 points and Hamilton's younger brother Daniel added 10 points, 12 rebounds and nine assists before fouling out with 47 seconds left.
Sophomore Stephen Thompson Jr.
, who started in Taylor's place, and Hawaii commit Niko Filipovich
each added 10 points for the Braves.
"We like to keep the tempo up and get defensive stops," Murray Jr. said. "We have to stay humble and not take any plays off. We have confidence that we can win state, but we can't afford to take any opponent lightly."
A three-point play by Miljkovic put the Knights ahead 8-2 early and Devin Means' floater in the lane gave Bishop Montgomery a 22-17 lead at the end of the first quarter.
Murray's three-pointer gave Bishop Montgomery a 39-28 lead with 2:12 left in the second quarter, but the Braves closed the half on a 7-1 run to pull within 40-35. The Braves cut their deficit to three points twice in the final five minutes but got no closer.
"Our players remember what happened against St. John Bosco last season and we didn't want a repeat of that," Mitchell said. "It shows that we're a stronger, more mature team now than we were then."