Villa Park boys basketball tops El Dorado with strong finish by Mal Johnson – Orange County Register

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VILLA PARK — The Villa Park boys basketball team seemed to be in control with a seemingly inevitable victory lined up once it built a 17-point second-half lead.

After a spirited rally by El Dorado, the Spartans’ advantage had dwindled to two points late in the game, but they were able to hold on and secure a 50-47 win in the nonleague game Friday night at Villa Park High.

Mal Johnson scored a game-high 23 points, including seven of the Spartans’ 10 fourth-quarter points, while Dakari Harris added 14 points and nine rebounds.

Johnson’s acrobatic layup gave Villa Park a 49-45 lead with less than a minute left in the game. Johnson also hit one of two free throws in the final seconds to help put the game away.

“It was going to be Dakari or Mal that was going to get that last shot, and once Mal had it, I mean, he’s pretty sneaky athletic,” Villa Park coach Kevin Reynolds said. “And he gets in there, and he can elevate, that last layup was really important.”

The Spartans have won three consecutive games and are back at the .500 mark with a 10-10 record.

The Golden Hawks were up 13-12 after the first quarter but Villa Park outscored El Dorado 16-3 in the second quarter thanks to a big lift from Harris, who scored eight of his 14 points in the second.

“You hold a league school to 16 points at half and you’re doing some really, really good things.” Reynolds said.

Harris also had a thunderous dunk in the second after an El Dorado turnover near midcourt. The slam gave the Spartans the early momentum.

“I thought Dakari started to light up a little bit,” Reynolds said. “He’s on his way and he’s ascending, but we just gotta keep pushing him forward, he’s got all the potential in the world.”

El Dorado coach Ryan Mounce was proud of the way his team battled back, especially with many of his starters on the bench during the rally,

“Most coaches don’t go into the second part of the third quarter and have to bench your entire first shift and go with a bunch of young guys to get you back in the game, but I told our guys from day one, it’s about being accountable, you have to perform,” Mounce said.

The Golden Hawks were led by Noah Barker, who scored a team-high 12 points. Caleb Hendrix had 10 points and Brent Kee added eight points.

El Dorado (12-8) got to within 10 to end the third quarter after a 6-0 run that included Kee sinking a runner at the buzzer.

A pivotal moment in the contest came with the Spartans up 47-40. Jared Hoggard challenged a shot at the rim by Barker. Hoggard was called for a foul and also a technical foul for taunting.

El Dorado made 3 of 4 free throws in the sequence to pull to within four points before Barker’s layup cut Villa Park’s lead to two, 47-45.

“Another disappointing loss where we are right on the verge of winning a game,” Mounce said, “and we put ourselves in a hole early and have to come back and the sense of urgency is a little too late in a 32-minute game.”

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