Dons Drop Fourth and Final Game of Ed Baker Tournament to Wildcats

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The Dons faced the University Wildcats Friday afternoon at Grant High School for their fourth game of the 2022 Ed Baker San Fernando Valley Invitational Tournament. They played well in spurts, but it was hard for them to overcome the lights-out three-point shooting of Wildcat’s Small Forward Mateo Grady, who hit seven from behind the arc in the second half, finishing the game with 31 points. He was shooting NBA distance three-pointers, so it wasn’t exactly bad defending by the Dons so much as it was Grady being in the zone from long range. The Dons lost the game 54-67.

Verdugo Hills came out firing in what was one of their best first quarters of the season. Arlen Tomasian had 5 points, David Marcos hit two three-pointers, and Adrian Mirzakani added 5 points. Even with those three producing at a high volume, Dons Guard Alan Hernandez stood out the most in that first quarter, with three assists, and two steals, one of which he turned into a fast break lay-up at the other end. Verdugo had set the tone early, and their shots were falling, which was good to see. They were up 18-4 at the end of the first quarter.

However, the Wildcats answered. They came out in the second quarter on a 10-0 run, forcing a timeout from Coach Gibson. Dons Guard Andre Javadian checked in and hit a quick three and would go on to hit another later in the quarter, as well as play admirable defense. Hernandez had two more assists before the quarter was over, closing the half with 5 assists. A Wildcats’ guard hit a buzzer-beating prayer, a bank-three-pointer, to take the game into halftime with the Dons in the lead 31-23. The game was getting heated, and the Dons had played solidly in the first half. The Dons were in a 2-3 zone, and it seemed to be working very well. The way to break a 2-3 is to attack the seams, but also, to start to hit shots from outside, and that’s what the Wildcats were able to do in lieu of driving to the basket in the second half.

The Dons’ weakness this afternoon was starting quarters (except for the first quarter). Just like how the Wildcats came out on a 10-0 run in the second quarter, they came out in the third quarter on a 20-3 run. This was where Grady started to heat up. University was in a full-court press now. The Dons rallied at the end of the quarter with Mirzakani and Marcos scoring 9 between them, along with a couple assists from Hernandez, who had at least 8 assists at this point. The third quarter ended neck-and-neck, with the Dons down 43-45.

The fourth quarter started just like the second and third quarters: University went on a 13-0 run. It had a lot to do with Grady’s shooting, but you have to give credit to a coach when credit is due. And when a team comes out of three straight quarter breaks after the huddle-talks and goes on runs like the Wildcats did today, we can only assume that Coach Steven Ackerman lit a fire inside his team and did well to make the proper adjustments. After the fourth quarter run, it was 58-43, and while Javadian hit another three-pointer, his third, as well as Tomasian, the rest of the game was played out in garbage minutes.

The game was exciting, it had its healthy share of trash-talking and shoulder nudges. The Dons will see the Monroe Vikings next on Wednesday January 12th at 4 PM.

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