DANVILLE -- The Monte Vista High boys basketball team comes to practice ready to make one of the stingiest defenses in California even better.
For two intense hours each afternoon, the Mustangs, led by their five tight-knit senior starters, focus primarily on drills that help them slow down opposing offenses.
"We spend a lot of time on defense, I think it drives them nuts," said Nick Jones, Monte Vista's second-year coach.
That kind of defensive commitment might not always be fun, but it has carried the Mustangs (31-1) to the best season in school history and a spot in the state championship game for the first time.
Monte Vista's dream season will culminate with a matchup against Centennial-Corona (29-3) in the CIF Division I final at 8 p.m. Friday at Sleep Train Arena in Sacramento.
The Mustangs don't have any big-time recruits. Instead, they are the sum of their parts with a dynamic point guard in Grant Jackson, a money sharpshooter in Trevor John, two lockdown defensive stoppers in Rishi Satoor and Brendan Pedley and a skilled, shot-blocking big man in Spencer Rust.
And nobody takes issue with spending the majority of practice time focused on defense.
"We take more pride in our defense than anything," Rust said.
Even with the competition getting better as their playoff run goes deeper, the Mustangs still haven't given up 60 points in a game. They allow an average of 43 points per game.
Satoor and Pedley are two of the biggest reasons for those impressive stats. Satoor matches up with an opponent's top guard, while Pedley is asked to handle the best forward and wing players.
"They've given up some personal glory for the benefit of the team," John said.
On Friday, Satoor will be tasked with slowing SMU commit Sedrick Barefield while Pedley, who has overcome injuries that sidelined him much of the past year, may be relied on to keep Long Beach State-bound Deontae North in check.
If either gets past the first line of defense, then they still have to contend with the 6-foot-9 Rust.
"His shot-blocking is really what gets us over the top defensively," Jones said.
Jones said his team is emphasizing rebounding, transition defense and taking care of the ball against Centennial, which averages 76 points per game and employs a pressure defense.
But if Monte Vista can withstand the pressure and turn in another stout defensive effort, there may be a storybook ending in store for a group that has been playing together since middle school.
"A lot of teams talk about how everyone on the team is close, but I really think we are the epitome of family and brothers," John said. "We're one unit and we all love being around each other. That just makes this that much more special."