HAYWARD -- The third-seeded Mt. Eden High boys basketball team punched its ticket to the North Coast Section Division II semifinals, and the CIF Northern California playoffs, with a 57-47 win over No. 6 San Lorenzo on Friday night.
"We've been looking forward to these (NCS) playoffs," said Mt. Eden sharp-shooter Noel Briones, who scored a game-high 24 points and made five 3-pointers. "We've been looking forward to it since we lost in the second round to Newark (Memorial) last year."
This is Mt. Eden's first trip to the NorCal playoffs since 1997 -- when it won the Division II section crown.
"We really wanted this game. Really, really wanted it," Briones said.
The Monarchs (19-9) will play at No. 2 Dublin (23-5) on Wednesday at 7 p.m.
Mt. Eden's Stevinair Young added 16 points and grabbed five rebounds. Teammate Jalen Dominique scored seven points, had seven rebounds and three blocks.
But it was on the defensive end that proved to be the difference for the Monarchs, who atoned for a 55-36 loss to San Lorenzo on Feb. 13.
The Rebels (16-12), who were paced by Ali Faruqbey's 23 points, were held to 11 points in the first quarter and a mere six in the second. They had trouble breaking through Mt. Eden's man-to-man defense in the second. That led to a 27-17 halftime lead for Mt. Eden.
"Coach (Aaron O'Brien) said defense is the key and we can't win this game without defense," Briones said.
San Lorenzo rallied