Esperanza boys basketball defeats El Modena to grab share of North Hills title
ORANGE – Of course Esperanza versus El Modena in boys basketball was a close game.
Esperanza won the boys basketball matchup Thursday night by a tight margin with the North Hills League championship on the line.
The Aztecs beat the Vanguards 60-59 in the league finale and the teams will share the championship.
Both teams finished with 4-2 league records. Esperanza beat El Modena 66-63 in their previous league game on Jan. 24.
El Modena had chances to win Thursday, but missed three free throws in the final 92 seconds.
Esperanza takes a 17-11 overall record into the CIF Southern Section playoffs that begin next week. Esperanza is ranked No. 14 in Division 4AA .
El Modena also takes a 17-11 record into the playoffs. The Vanguards are ranked No. 5 in Division 4A.
Because both are league champions and are in different playoff divisions, both can go into the playoffs carrying the designation as the No. 1 team from their league.
The CIF-SS basketball playoff brackets will be released Sunday at noon.
Senior guard Jaxson LaGraffe led Esperanza with 20 points and made four 3-pointers.
“Great teamwork, the whole game, and great defense,” LaGraffe said. “El Modena is always a battle.”
Esperanza beat El Modena 60-59. The teams finish the regular season 4-2 each; they’re North Hills League co-champs. Here is Esperanza senior Jaxson LaGraffe who scored a game-high 20 points … pic.twitter.com/Q7gdgYXpBX
— Steve Fryer (@SteveFryer) February 3, 2023
Esperanza’s Zach Rentch scored 14 points and Zach Preciado made three second-half 3s for his nine points.
El Modena senior forward Nicholas Weed scored a game-high 18 points. Drew Rodriguez scored 17 points and Brady Lemnitzer scored 16 points with three 3-pointers.
The teams traded the lead several times. Esperanza got off to a hot start, taking a 10-2 lead. Lemnitzer made three 3s in the second quarter as El Modena outscored Esperanza 20-4 to take a 39-30 halftime lead.
Esperanza had a great third quarter, outscoring El Modena 18-7. LaGraffe and Preciado made two 3s each in the third quarter. LaGraffee made a 27-foot 3-pointer to beat the buzzer and send the Aztecs into the fourth quarter with a 48-46 lead.
Weed scored to tie the game 58-58 with 1:54 remaining. LaGraffe made two free throws with 49 seconds left for a 60-58 lead and Lemintizer made one with 31 seconds to go to make it 60-59.