COLUMBIA -- Liam Smith had not netted a game-winning shot since elementary school.
The euphoria, he discovered, doesn't change.
"So exciting," he said. "It's a feeling I want again."
Once was enough for Smith, a Central Catholic senior, Wednesday at the high school finals of the Robert Dominik Fuchs Memorial Holiday Classic. His 18-footer from the baseline with 18 seconds left carried the Raiders to an entertaining 54-52 win over Golden Valley.
Never miss a local story.
Trek Fayerweather, Golden Valley's smooth 6-foot-2 junior, lost the ball nearly to halfcourt, then missed wide from about 30 feet at the buzzer.
Central Catholic (9-3), the defending Western Athletic Conference co-champion, will carry some major momentum into its league opener next week against Gustine.
"A big confidence boost," Central Catholic coach Mike Wilson said. "We entered this tournament to play games like this and go against big schools and quality programs."
They found one in Golden Valley (9-6), which soon will defend its own co-title in the Central California Conference.
The Cougars tiptoed on the highwire the last two days at the Oak Pavilion. Fayerweather's 3-pointer with 1 second to go in regulation Tuesday night led to an overtime victory over Sonora.
Twenty-four hours later, Golden Valley's helter-skelter press erased an 11-point deficit and pushed the Cougars in front 48-44 with less than five minutes left.
"We did it defensively. We try to get the ball down the court as fast as we can," Golden Valley coach Keith Hunter said. "We can't match up with their big guys."
Hunter referred to Central Catholic's 6-5 seniors Dan Hulst (13 points) and Dusty Killian (12), who strafed the Cougars in the key. But the pace quickened as Golden Valley -- doing most of its damage with Fayerweather on the bench-sped into command with a 17-2 run and its four-point lead.
Enter Smith, a slim 6-2 wing. With Central's big players neutralized, Smith scored his team's final 10 points -- a triple, two free throws, a backdoor layup and 3-point play after a pretty feed by Kyle Wilson and the title-clincher. Killian, with the GV defense converging, dished to a wide-open Smith.
Smith accounted for the Central Catholic scoring in the fourth quarter. Incredibly, the Raiders won without a single point the final eight minutes from Hulst or Killian.
"We kicked it to the open guy," Wilson said. "It was something we had worked on."
Killian was named the tournament's most valuable player. Also named were Fayerweather (58 tournament points), Hulst, Sierra's Trevor Nogueira, Sonora's Alex Kiriluk and Chavez's Thomas Wallace.
SIERRA 51, SONORA 47 -- Both teams dreaded this scenario, given the fact they'll meet Tuesday night at Sierra to open the Valley Oak League. Nogueira, the Timberwolves' standout guard, tossed in seven of his 13 points during the fourth quarter to seal third-place honors.
"It was a grindout game," Sierra coach Scott Thomason said. "We didn't show everything and I know they didn't show everything."
DOWNEY 51, MODESTO 36 -- Both city teams hungered for a win in this outbracket consolation game, and the Knights (2-11) got it by avenging a loss to the Panthers at the Modesto City Classic. Downey snapped an eight-game losing streak with a 17-point first-quarter, a 24-18 lead at halftime and a pullaway during the third period. Tim Richard picked up eight of his 12 points after the break.
Modesto (5-11), which lost for the fifth straight game, has slumped since its encouraging performance at the city classic.
CHAVEZ 57, SUMMERVILLE 39 -- The Bears (4-7) stayed close until Chavez's Keishawn Washington, a 5-9 junior guard, found his shooting touch in the second quarter. Washington finished with 18 points, featuring three triples, for consolation bracket-winning the Titans. (7-8). Tige Wingo, a 6-5 junior, paced Summerville with 12 points.