Ricardo Ashe hit a free throw with two minutes remaining to give the Triton Frosh a two-point lead, then Chris DeGrazia followed up by converting an open-court steal into two points to finally put away a pesky Mission Viejo team and secure the Laguna Hills Tournament championship, 41-35. It is the second consecutive year the San Clemente freshman team has won the title.
Early on, it appeared as if the Tritons (8-1) might have an easy time time with the Diablos. San Clemente jumped out to a comfortable 12-2 first-quarter lead. But MIssion Viejo chipped away at the margin, finally tying the game at 29 in the third quarter after Tritons Joey Spurgeon and James VanGinkel were slowed by foul trouble.
Opening the fourth, the young Tritons exhibited some of the big plays that would get them to the wire. A basket by back-up center Daniel Mircheff led things off. Then point guard Blake Birmingham hit a three-pointer to give San Clemente a slight cushion. But Mission Viejo wasn't ready to go away yet, as it fought back again, leading to the clutch late-game plays by the Tritons.
Birmingham led Triton scorers with 18. Spurgeon had 13; Ashe, 3; VanGinkel, 3; DeGrazia, 2; and Mircheff, 2.
After a short break for the holiday, the freshman team is back in action at 11:20 a.m. Dec. 26 against the host team in the first round of the El Toro Tournament at El Toro High School.