MORAGA -- The same defensive brand of basketball that got Monte Vista High to the North Coast Section Division I boys basketball title game also won the Mustangs the championship.
With a 57-41 win over Freedom on March 7 at Saint Mary's College, Monte Vista earned its third section crown and first since 2009.
The Mustangs held the high-flying Falcons offense to well below its season average of 70 points. Senior Trevor John led Monte Vista's offense with 20 points.
"We practice defense more than any team, I think, in Northern California," John said. "All of our practices focus on defense, and it showed tonight."
Monte Vista senior guard Grant Jackson added 14 points to help deny Freedom (24-6) a title in the program's first trip to an NCS final.
After leading by three points at halftime, Monte Vista (28-1) surged ahead for good in the third quarter when the defense allowed just two Freedom field goals and Jackson took over on offense, scoring nine points.
Rishi Satoor and Joseph Mileski held Freedom's Rodney Pope to just two free throws in the second half after the senior guard poured in 14 points in the opening half.
"I wasn't too crazy about our defense in the first half, I thought we were a little tentative," said Monte Vista coach Nick Jones, who guided Castro Valley to the NCS Division I title in 2011 before returning to coach his Alma mater before last season. "Pope was going off, and we really challenged Satoor and Mileski to pick it up and they did a great job."
John, a Cal Poly-bound guard, got off to a sizzling start, scoring 13 points in the first quarter. He connected on a three 3-pointers, the last of which beat the shot clock buzzer to give the Mustangs an 18-13 lead after a quarter.
By March 8, the Mustangs had turned their attention to the CIF Northern Regional playoffs. Monte Vista had the option of petitioning to join the Open Division, but announced via its Twitter account that it will compete in Division I.
The Mustangs received the No. 1 seed for the Division I playoffs. Monte Vista hosts the winner of Wednesday's game between Fremont-Oakland and Bellarmine-San Jose on Saturday.