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BBK: Gonzalez’s 28 carry Dons past Dos Pueblos

Emilio Gonzalez poured in 28 points, and Santa Barbara High made six straight free throws down the stretch to hold off a furious Dos Pueblos comeback and pull out a 61-53 Channel League boys basketball victory Wednesday night at Sovine Gym.

The result leaves both teams at 4-3 in league play. Santa Barbara is 15-4 overall and Dos Pueblos 12-7.

Gonzalez was unstoppable in the first half, scoring 19 points to help the Dons build a 15-point lead, 37-22.

“Emilio was just unstoppable,” Santa Barbara coach David Bregante said. “He’s just too big and too strong. He’s a strong kid and he’s tough. He’s just getting in the zone. He’s playing really well right now.”

Dos Pueblos got itself back in the game early in the third quarter when Chris Williams and Cruz Mertens buried consecutive 3 pointers. The Chargers cut the Dons’ lead to eight, 42-34, after a turnaround baseline shot by C.J. Zajic.

But DP took a big hit soon after when Mertens hurt his ankle and had to be assisted off the court with 2:47 left in the third quarter. The team was already without Zach Shugart (knee problem) and Jackson Wopat (broken leg).

The Dons seized on the advantage as Gonzalez delivered consecutive assists on a 3-pointer by Noah Burke and a layup by Burke before scoring on a delicate tear-drop shot to put the Dons up 49-38 at the end of the third quarter.

“When we don’t have 100 percent of our players we’re a totally different team,” DP coach Joe Zamora said. “But, I will say this: my team doesn’t back down; the guys that were in there fought. Other than a section in the second quarter, I thought we did a good job defensively. In the second half, the kids battled and got after it.”

Gonzalez opened the fourth quarter with an offensive rebound to put the Dons ahead by 13. But they couldn’t put Dos Pueblos away. The Chargers capitalized on some turnovers and a technical foul against Gonzalez and scored six straight points to make it 51-44.

“He’s a really emotional kid, but I tell you: he’s a winner,” Bregante said of the 6-3 multi-dimensional player. “He sees the floor so well. Some of the passes he made were spectacular; we missed a lot of layups tonight.”

DP got as close as three (53-50) when Erik Olson buried a 3-pointer with 1:05 to go in the game.

Santa Barbara called timeout and the Dons regained some momentum when Gonzalez hit a clutch turnaround shot in the lane for a 55-50 lead with 39 seconds left.

“He’s a great player, so that was kind of the difference as well,” Zamora said.

DP kept battling. Zajic powered inside, got fouled and hit a pair of free throws to make it a three-point game again.

“They were a little shorthanded today,” Bregante said of the Chargers. “I got to give those kids credit, they kept fighting.”

Santa Barbara was able to stave off the Chargers as Matt Wagonhurst made four free throws, Brandon Fay knocked down two and Burke blocked a driving layup by DP’s Williams.

Gonzalez finished the game with double-double, adding 11 rebounds to his stat line. He also had five steals. Jack Baker grabbed 11 rebounds. The Dons, taking advantage of their size advantage, outboarded DP 33-24.

Dos Pueblos got balanced scoring, led by Devon Ray’s 11 points. Williams and Zajic each had 10 points and Mertens finished with nine.