DANVILLE -- The Monte Vista High boys basketball team needed to pull off a rare feat -- earn a third win this season over De La Salle -- to return to the North Coast Section Division I title game for the first time since 2009.
The top-seeded Mustangs did just that, beating the visiting Spartans 46-39 on Wednesday.
Monte Vista plays No. 3 Freedom, which ended the Mustangs' season last year in the NCS quarterfinals, on Friday at 8 p.m. at Saint Mary's College.
Monte Vista (27-1) began to pull away from the Spartans in the third quarter of its Division I semifinal when Trevor John got hot, and iced the game by making seven of their final eight free throws.
John scored eight of his 11 points in the third quarter, including a deep 3-pointer that pushed the Mustangs' lead to 31-23.
Monte Vista emerged from a tight first half with a 20-18 lead, even while allowing the Spartans to thrive on their bread-and-butter backdoor cuts.
"We focused on taking that away," Jones said. "I thought we did a really good job defensively and our possessions in the second half were much more efficient."
Patrick Marr scored 12 points and grabbed seven rebounds for De La Salle (21-8), which was without injured starter Nikhil Peters.
"I give De La Salle a lot of credit — they're tough, they're scrappy, they have a lot of pride," Jones said. "I know they were one man down and they gave us everything we could handle."
Devin Asiasi gave the Spartans some hope when he made two free throws to close within 42-36 with 33 seconds to play. But Grant Jackson helped the Mustangs survive by going perfect at the free throw line from there on out.