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Hillmen News · Placer drops a tough one to hot shooting VDL Eagles

The Placer Hillmen might be seeing Vista Del Lago senior Luke Avdalovic in their nightmares for a while.

He’ll be making shots. Shot after shot after shot. Just like he did in the second quarter on Friday in a second-round Sac-Joaquin Section Div. III playoff game on Friday at Vista in Folsom.

Avdalovic caught fire in the quarter, scoring 18 points on a variety of threes, baseline jumpers and one slam dunk as the Eagles exploded for 35 points in the frame and advanced to the semifinals with a 78-53 victory.

Avdalovic wasn’t alone – the Eagles might have missed five shots in the quarter; they most certainly didn’t miss six – but from the six-minute mark on, when he made his first three-pointer for a 19-12 lead, the Eagles buried the Hillmen, scoring nearly every trip down the court.

“We masde shots,” Vista coach Tim Weir said. “It’s a lot easier when you make shots. Our outside game was clicking. They got a couple of open looks, and they knocked the shots down.”

Placer’s senior trio of Jeremy Lillis, Jordan Ferreira and Kai Huntsberry tried to keep the Hillmen within shouting distance. Each scored with drives to the basket, either making layups or drawing fouls and hitting free throws, and Placef scored 16 points in the quarter.

It wasn’t nearly enough. Vista led 11-10 after the first quarter. By halftime, that one-point lead was 20.

“Every time we made a mistake, missed a ball, missed a rebound, didn’t rotate, they hit the shot,” Placer coach Mark Lee said. “We did a nice job againat (Avdalovic) in the first, but every time we lost him in the second, he made the shot.”

Game over? Not quite. When these two teams met on Jan. 6 in Folsom, the Eagles built a large lead only to see the Hillmen roar back in Vista’s 65-64 escape.

So when Placer scored the first 10 points of the third quarter, deja vu seemed to be in the air.,

“We told the kids they were going to come out and pressure us,” Weir said. “We turned the ball over, didn’t get a good shot in the first four or five minutes.”

Lillis led the Hillmen’s charge, scoring five straight points in the run and controlling the defensive glass. Brendyn Ikeda nailed a three to pull Placer within 46-36 three minutes into the quarter.

Placer got more stops, but the Eagles stiffened defensively.

And Avdalovic, as he has so often before, stepped into a much-needed three-pointer.

“We weathered the storm,” Weir said. “They slowed a little bit, we got back into our rhythm and we made some shots.”

Ferreira answered Avdalovic’s shot with a driving layup, but Avdalovic nailed a jumper from the free-throw line to give the Eagles a 51-38 lead.

Following a Ferreira free throw, Avdalovic got the ball again. Placer sent mutliple defenders at him and he found Terry Moody cutting to the basket for a layup. Grant Bellis followed with a driving layup, and it seemed the Eagles had restored order, pushing the lead to 55-39.

Placer had one more run, with Lillis again in the center of things, blocking shots and grabbing rebounds, and Jordan Perlow’s two free throws with a couple of minutes remaining again closed the gap to 10, 56-46.

This time, there would be no more comeback.

Arjun Rama scored six points as Vista closed the quarter on an 8-0 run to take a 64-46 lead into the final quarter.

The last quarter was ragged on both sides. Vista failed to score for the first four minutes, but Placer managed only four points in that time frame.

“I think both teams were in foul trouble,” Weir said.

And when Avdalovic hit yet another three – his fifth on the night – to give the Eagles a 69-50 lead, Placer went into desperation mode and began launching – and missing – threes at every opportuinity. Soon after, Lee emptied his bench.

“We got behind,” Lee said. “We haven’t been behind much, and I think there wss a little panic. We figured that out and played much better in the third, but they got some easy shots at the end and restored the lead.”

Avdalovic led all scorers with 30. Rama finished with 14, Grant Bellis added 10, and William FitzPatrick pitched in with nine.

Ferreira led the Hillmen (25-4) with 16 points. Lillis added 14, Huntsberry finished with 13, and Ikeda hit a pair of threes for six points.

“It was a great season,” Lee said. “We had great leadership by the seniors. I’ve enjoyed coaching al lof the kids; they have great work habits. Their unselfish play, sportsmanship … they’re always a class act. They represent the team, the school and the city of Auburn in a positive way.”