San Joaquin Delta opted for the conservative route and Alonzo Sharpe gladly took advantage.
Up 65-63 with just 2.06 seconds to play, the Mustangs' Keven Campbell stood at the free throw line with a chance to ice the game.
Not wanting to foul, Delta head coach Rich Ressa placed the rest of his team on the opposite end of the court.
The move backfired when Campbell missed the front end of a one-and-one and Sharpe was allowed to collect an uncontested rebound.
With two quick dribbles, the Blue Devil sophomore pushed the ball up court and unleashed a prayer about six feet shy of half court.
Sharpe's heave hit nothing but twine to set off a wild celebration as MC pulled out the 66-65 come-from-behind victory.
"All I was thinking was get the ball off," said Sharpe, who had a team-high 15 points. "I knew there wasn't any time, so I just flicked it up there.
"I thought it was going to be short, but when it went in ... it was crazy."
The shot gave the Blue Devils their only lead of the second half as they had to claw back into the game after an anemic opening 20 minutes.
With five minutes to play in the opening half, the MC offense became stagnant. The Blue Devils stopped going inside and began settling for long-range jumpers.
MC (2-3) hit just 1 of 7
3-pointers in the first half and Delta (0-3) took advantage with its transition game.
Led by James Lake (11 points), the Mustangs attacked the basket and closed the first half with a 15-5 run.
"We had to make some adjustments in the second half as well as just pick up our intensity," MC head coach Bill Russell said. "Our effort in the first half just wasn't very good.
"I made sure we were going to take the shots we wanted to take -- whether we made them or not -- and we picked up our defensive effort."
Despite the improved play, the Delta lead remained 11 until just under 8 minutes to go.
Freshman guard Andre Moore provided the missing Blue Devil spark, running off a 7-0 run all by himself.
Sharpe followed with a 3-point play to make it 56-53.
A Tamar Moultrie layup finally tied up the game with 1 minute to play, but Delta's Dominique Barnes answered with a 10-foot jumper with 42 seconds left.
Sharpe missed a late 3 and CJ Coleman was called for a tough charge, but the Mustangs missed the front end of two one-and-ones in the last seven seconds to set up Sharpe's heroic heave.
At Don Reid Court
DELTA -- Greg Doyle 2, Keven Campbell 9, Dominique Barnes 6, Richard Perry 3, Amarpreet Randhawa 4, Ben Neufield 8, James Lake 11, Marcus Beaird 2, Dan Schwarzberg 8, Jamal Thomas 6, Derek Wofford 4, Pat Livingston 2. Totals: 26 9-12 65.
MERCED COLLEGE -- Andre Moore 13, Alonzo Sharpe 15, CJ Coleman 7, Tamar Moultrie 8, Josh Tatum 13, Hodari Peterson 6, Frank Burns 4. Totals: 25 10-14 66.
3-pointers: Delta 4 (Campbell, Lake, Schwarzberg 2), Merced 5 (Moore 2, Sharpe 2, Coleman); Rebounds: Delta 32 (Thomas 6), Merced 26 (Peterson 7); Assists: Merced 12 (Coleman 5); Steals: Merced 7 (Sharpe 3); Total Fouls: Delta 13, Merced 15; Foul Outs: None.
Halftime Score: Delta 38-25.
Records: Delta 0-3; Merced College 2-3.