When Castro Valley High's Jalen McFerren made a shot to give his team a three-point lead with 3:39 left, it capped a 13-1 run and gave the host Trojans some much-needed momentum Friday night.
But feisty, defensive-minded Mt. Eden had one last spurt left in it. The Monarchs closed the game with a 13-4 run to claim a big 53-47 win in the West Alameda County Conference-Foothill Division opener for both teams.
"We've been saying for a week this was a big game," said Mt. Eden's three-year varsity guard Noel Briones, who scored 22 points -- including nine in the fourth quarter.
Mt. Eden's smothering defense created 11 first-half turnovers. The Monarchs (11-1, 1-0 WACC-Foothill) cut off passing lanes and bothered Castro Valley's top two scorers -- Derrick Clayton and McFerren -- all night. The duo finished with 22 points combined. McFerren sat the entire second quarter with three fouls. Castro Valley (5-6, 0-1) scored just eight points in the third quarter and had a mere 20 at the half.
"We're not that great of an offensive team, and we rely on our defense to create our offense," Mt. Eden coach Aaron O'Brien said. "If we defend like we're capable of, we can be in every game."
Mt. Eden got 21 points from Stevinair Young. The 6-foot-2 senior forward converted a layup with just over a minute left to give the Monarchs a 48-45 lead.
Mt. Eden led by eight points twice in the contest, at the end of both the second and third quarters. The Trojans mounted a comeback by riding Deveion McClain-Hall, who scored six points in the span of two minutes midway through the fourth quarter, to tie the game at 38-38.
Briones would come up huge at the free throw line in the fourth. He made four straight free throws -- two on a personal foul and two on a technical on the Castro Valley bench -- with 2:54 left that gave Mt. Eden a 46-43 lead.
California High standout running back Karris Johnson has orally committed to Utah State, after also considering Colorado State, UNLV and Cal Poly.
"I just felt I fit in really well when I took my visit up there a few months ago,'" said Johnson.
Johnson rushed for 1,301 yards and 20 touchdowns in 2012.
-- Matt Schwab