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Vista del Lago downs Placer in D3 boys basketball playoffs

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All season long, Placer High’s free throw shooting has carried the boys basketball team to accolade after accolade, including a Pioneer Valley League championship.

Wednesday, shots from the foul line ended Placer’s season.

The Hillmen made only 4 of 21 free throws, going 1 for 5 in the fourth quarter as Vista del Lago surged ahead and claimed a 54-49 postseason stunner inside Earl Crabbe Gymnasium.

Seventh-seeded Placer ends the 2014-15 campaign 21-6 while No. 10 seed Vista del Lago (14-14) will play second-seeded Vanden Friday to continue the Sac-Joaquin Section Division III playoffs.

“The kids played their hearts out,” Placer coach Mark Lee said. “I’m very proud of them. It was a great season.”

Placer jumped ahead 8-2 and carried a 16-8 lead into the second quarter. The Eagles closed the gap late in the half, but Justin DiRuscio took control at the end of the period and gave Placer a 29-24 lead at halftime.

Things went awry for Placer in the second half, starting with five consecutive missed shots to open the third quarter. The Hillmen still charged back with a Derek Haney 3-pointer and led 44-39 early in the fourth, but appeared hapless during a 15-5 Vista del Lago rally to close the game.

Placer missed all three free throws in the last minute and a half of game time.

“We just struggled shooting free throws for the first time all year,” Lee said. “You have to hand it to Vista del Lago. They did a nice job getting the ball inside and they made their free throws.”

The Eagles were 16 of 20 from the foul line. They also made 7 of 8 in the fourth quarter, four by point guard Jason Moonen (11 points), who iced the game with conversions in the final moments.

TJ Fulton led the Eagles with 14 points while Patrick Reinking scored 10.

“Lately we have been winning at the end and we did that again tonight for the (third) time in a row,” Vista del Lago coach Terry Battenberg said. “It was a tough environment, but we have played well on the road.

“We didn’t really play that well tonight, but it was a tough game and both teams had their problems. They had trouble at the foul line and we had problems rebounding.”

Placer was led by the 12-point performance of Marcus Ante. Derek Haney chipped in 11 points while Giovanni Roberts scored eight.