The Murrieta Valley varsity boys basketball team pulled away with a 70-66 win in the final minute of a game played Saturday against Ontario Colony when the Nighthawks traveled to Azusa Pacific University to participate in the Southern California Shootout.
The Nighthawks were still stinging from a 2-point loss to league rival Great Oak the night before and Coach Steve Tarabilda was wondering if he had made the right decision to play. The loss put MV at 3-3 and into second place.
The Titans came out strong and led 15-10 after the first quarter with the help of seven Murrieta Valley turnovers. The Nighthawks came storming back and outscored Colony by 12 in the second period and led 37-30 at the half.
Turnovers again plagued the Nighthawks in the third period and the Titans exploited them to take a 42-39 lead into the final frame. They led until the Nighthawks put it all together in the fourth and whittled away at the Titans.
Murrieta Valley took the lead with less than five minutes to play on a lay-up by Thomas Alexandre. The game stayed close and was tied 66-66 with just over one minute to play when Kevin Padlo scored to put the Nighthawks ahead by two.
Tyler Bilton was fouled and sank two free throws with two seconds left to give Murrieta Valley the 70-66 victory.
Bilton led the Nighthawks in scoring with 21 points. He was 7-10 at the charity stripe and also had eight rebounds. Padlo scored 20, Alexandre 14 and Mitch Lenhart nine against the Titans.
Tarabilda’s Nighthawks showed a lot of grit and resolve as they battled back and hung on to win, though their performance with turnovers and free throws was lacking.
Murrieta Valley was dismal at the foul line against the Titans. Excluding Bilton, the Nighthawks made only five of 18 free throws.
The team is looking to improve in that aspect as league play resumes Wednesday when Murrieta Valley will play Murrieta Mesa on the Rams' home court.
The Rams are 4-2 and tied for first place with Great Oak.
The Nighthawks will be at Vista Murrieta on Friday. All Southwestern League teams will be participating in a special, Coaches vs. Cancer game.
All games begin at 7 p.m. Come out and support the Nighthawks, Rams and Broncos as the Southwestern league race tightens. Can Murrieta Valley three-peat? Who knows who will be on top at the end.