Christian Carroll is the type of player who doesn’t mind taking the big shot.
The Golden Valley High junior displayed his calmness under pressure again on Wednesday night. Carroll drained a 25-foot jumper to give the Cougars a three-point lead with 50 seconds left and No. 4 seed Golden Valley hung on to defeat No. 13 Oak Ridge 50-49 in the first round of the Sac-Joaquin Section Division 1 playoffs at Cougar Arena.
“We called a play we hadn’t run all game,” said Carroll, who finished with 16 points. “I was going to shoot it if I got an open shot or I was going to pass to Evan (Stillahn) to attack.
“I was open, so I shot it.”
Carroll’s 3-pointer helped Golden Valley (24-4) overcome an eight-point deficit in the fourth quarter.
Golden Valley will host No. 12 Bethel of Vallejo on Friday in the quarterfinals after the Jaguars upset No. 5 Granite Bay 74-72.
Aided by a 50-foot shot at the buzzer, the Cougars jumped out to an 18-12 lead after the first quarter.
“I think I’m not one for 10 for those kind of shots,” Carroll said. “Me and Evan always try them. One has to go in eventually.”
The shot was even bigger as the game went on.
Golden Valley watched its early advantage disappear quickly. As the Cougars struggled against the Trojans’ zone, Oak Ridge ran off 13 straight points and eventually took a 27-22 lead at the half.
“It wasn’t just one person, everyone was making mistakes,” Cougars coach Keith Hunter said. “Oak Ridge played good defense. They were long and they were tipping balls, but I felt if we took care of the ball we’d be all right. I didn’t think they’d blow us out.”
Oak Ridge’s patient approach extended the lead to 40-32 heading into the fourth quarter.
“We didn’t everything that we wanted to do in this game,” said Trojans coach Steve Scott. “We got the ball inside. We rotated the ball around to shooters. We did everything except make some lay-ins. We’ve done that all year. That’s what is so aggravating.”
The Cougars came alive in the fourth quarter, starting with a a 7-0 run as Josh Sykes scored on a reverse layup to cut the lead to 40-39 with 5:28 remaining. Carroll knocked down a 3-pointer and Sykes followed with a steal and a dunk to give the Cougars a 47-45 lead with 2:42 left.
“We picked up our intensity,” said Sykes, who finished with 18 points. “I had a bad first half. My teammates were able to help pick me up emotionally. “It feels great not to have to turn in our jerseys today.”
The Trojans’ Tyler Hatten (19 points) tied the game at 47-all with 2:01 left. It stayed that way until Carroll’s long 3-pointer gave GV a 50-47 lead.
Trailing 50-49, Oak Ridge had a chance to win, but Grant Dean misfired on a 3-pointer with 3 seconds left.
UC Merced 73, Pacific Union 54
Aki Chambers scored 19 points as the Bobcats opened the California Pacific Conference playoff with a win over the Pioneers.
George Idehen scored 10 points and pulled down 12 rebounds for the Bobcats, who travel to Cal State Maritime on Friday.