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 Friday 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.
Rodney Pope led the Falcons with 16 points, and Elliott Smith added 11.
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 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."
Now the Mustangs, who led by as many as 19 points early in the fourth quarter, must decide if they want to stay in Division I for the upcoming Northern California regional playoffs or petition up to the Open Divison.
Jones said the team would meet tomorrow and that he would let the players choose.
"It's their team, not my team," Jones said. "I'm just the baby sitter. They're going to decide."
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.
But Freedom came storming back behind Pope. The Bay Valley Athletic League MVP scored all nine of the Falcons' points in the second quarter.
Pope's layup with 2:30 left before half briefly gave Freedom a 22-21 lead before Monte Vista went back ahead 25-22 at the intermission.
The second half was a different story for the senior guard.
"They had a really good scheme, denying Rodney the ball," Freedom coach Drew Torres said. "They made him work to get open."
Monte Vista tied a school record for most wins in a season.
Freedom was aiming for just the second NCS championship in school history in any boys sport. The Falcons' 2009 baseball team claimed the first.
Division I Championship Monte Vista 57, Freedom 41
D. Pope 2 0-0 4, Mallett 1 0-0 3, E. Smith 4 0-0 11, R. Pope 6 2-2 16, Ketchel 0 1-2 1, McIntosh 1 4-4 6. Totals 14 7-8 41.2 0-0 4, Mallett 1 0-0 3, E. Smith 4 0-0 11, R. Pope 6 2-2 16, Ketchel 0 1-2 1, McIntosh 1 4-4 6. Totals 14 7-8 41.
Monte Vista (28-1)
John 7 2-2 20, Pedley 2 1-2 5, Mileski 0 2-2 2, Jackson 6 2-4 14, Satoor 2 2-4 7, Dobberpuhl 1 0-0 2, Rust 3 1-1 7. Totals 21 11-15 57.
Freedom 13 9 9 10-- 41
Monte Vista 18 7 18 14-- 56
3-point goals: E. Smith 3, R. Pope 2, Mallett; John 4, Satoor. Technical foul: Mixon. Highlights: MV -- Jackson 7 rebounds, 5 assists; Rust 8 rebounds.