ATWATER — Joe Marquez isn't afraid of the big moment.
He's had more than his share in his three years on the Buhach Colony boys basketball team.
So with his team staked to a one-point lead in the final minute on Friday night and the Thunder's designed play breaking down, Marquez didn't hesitate firing a 3 just before the shot clock expired.
The Thunder Dome erupted as Marquez buried the shot with 45 seconds to play. The senior would add a crucial free throw and Buhach Colony held on for a wild 58-57 victory over Merced.
"It was late in the game, so we wanted to run the clock, but the play we were running kind of fell apart," Marquez said. "Aaron (Cochran) did a great job decoying and Roger (Klauser) sealed for me.
"I was just fortunate enough to make it."
The 3 was the cap on a big second half for Marquez (team-high 25 points), as he and Merced's Travante Richard (game-high 30 points) put the scoring loads on their shoulders.
Both teams turned in a physical first half that was plagued by fouls and turnovers.
BC managed to squeak out a 25-20 lead at intermission behind Cochrans's eight points.
The scoring picked up in the third quarter after Richard picked up his fourth foul less than two minutes into the second half.
Marquez took advantage, hitting consecutive treys. Kevin Walejko added a third and the Thunder (14-7, 2-2 Central California Conference) threatened to break the game open with a 17-0 run.
With his team down 44-24, Merced coach Hector Nava was forced to roll the dice and send his leading scorer back onto the floor.
"As soon as Travante came out they went on that run," Nava said. "There was no point in him staying on the bench. If we didn't do something to respond, the game was over anyway.
"I was really proud of the way my guys rallied. There's no quit in this group and we made it a game."
Merced cut the lead to 14 points at the end of three quarters and then got right back in it with an 11-0 to open the fourth quarter.
David Keys (12 points) made consecutive layups to cut the lead to 50-47 with just under 5 minutes to play.
It was as close as the Bears (8-14, 1-3 CCC) could get until BC head coach John Bliss was called for a technical foul after arguing what he thought was a traveling call.
Richard sank 1 of 2 free throws to cut the lead to 54-52 with 1:20 to play.
Marquez and Richard exchanged layups before Marquez's 3 put the game out of reach.
Richard added one last 3 as time expired.
"It was a tale of two halves, I guess," Bliss said. "We were very good in the first half and not so good in the second half. But Joe made a big shot when we needed it and Aaron came up with some big rebounds and a couple blocks.
"We found a way to win, and in a game like that, that's what matters."