It’s a play Keith Hunter has been running since Golden Valley High opened in 1994.
Bryan Livesay delivered the pass, Cyrus Allen set the screen and Devon Martinez scored the layup to give the Cougars a one-point lead over Merced with 18 seconds left in the game.
Dhameer Warren’s half-court shot was short as the buzzer sounded and Golden Valley celebrated a dramatic 57-56 win over the Bears on Friday night at a jam-packed Cougar Arena. The Cougars did it by erasing a four-point deficit in the final 20 seconds of the game.
“That play, we run that same play all the time,” said Martinez, who scored 12 points. “(Merced) knew we were running it. Cyrus jus set a great screen and the pass was right there. As soon as I shot the ball, I was like, ‘Please go in.’ As soon as the ball went through the hoop my ears exploded it was so loud.”
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It was the second loss in the final seconds this week for Merced, which now stands at (12-9 overall and 2-4 in the Central California Conference).
The Bears lost 52-49 on Wednesday to Atwater on a half-court shot at the buzzer. Upset with the officiating in the final seconds, Merced coach Hector Nava was ejected after the game. The ejection meant Nava had to serve a one-game suspension and miss the Golden Valley game. Assistant coach Jake Meneley was acting as head coach on Friday night.
Merced had an opportunity to close out the Cougars. Jeremy Redwine (20 points) hit a 3-pointer that gave the Bears a 56-52 lead with 53 seconds left in the game.
“We have to finish games,” Redwine said. “We lost this one. We dropped one to Pitman. We have to find a way to finish. That’s been our problem. As we get deeper into the season you realize how valuable each game is, especially when it’s your senior year.”
Trailing by four points late, Etrell Bowers delivered the big basket to give the Cougars a chance. Bowers worked his way into the lane, faked a shot to get Redwine in the air, and jumped into him to draw a foul as he made the basket. His free throw cut the Merced lead to 56-55 with 19.4 seconds left.
“I knew I could get him to jump,” Bowers said. “I got into him when he jumped. We weren’t getting many fouls during the game. I went up strong and got it. It was a huge shot. It felt good. I’m pretty sure everybody felt good.”
Merced still had the lead and the ball, but the Bears turned the ball on the ensuing inbound pass as Xavier Stewart (15 points) tried to throw a pass down the sideline to Redwine, but the ball bounced out of bounds untouched. That gave the ball back to the Cougars under its own basket.
Hunter quickly talked with his assistant coach about calling a timeout to draw up a play, but decided against it.
“I didn’t want to give (Merced) a chance to regroup,” Hunter said.
Instead, Hunter called the play from the sideline and the result was a layup for Martinez and a 57-56 lead with 18 seconds left.
“That’s a play we’re run every year I’ve coached for 23 years,” Hunter said. “It’s nice to see it work again. Cyrus sets the screen. Bryan makes a great pass to Devon for the basket. It’s a risky pass because he has to throw it across the key. All three things have to work on the play.”
The game was close throughout. From the midway point of the second quarter neither team led by more than four points the rest of the way. There was 12 lead changes in the second half alone.
The win keeps Golden Valley (15-6, 4-2 CCC) in the thick of the CCC race. With Turlock upsetting Pitman 45-43 on Friday night, the Cougars are all alone in second place in the conference, two games behind El Capitan (16-5, 5-1 CCC).
“Down four with about a minute left to go, a lot of guys could have put their head down,” Hunter said. “Guys on our bench were yelling to stay in it. A lot of the right things were being said. We had the right attitude.”
Buhach Colony 70, Atwater 63 in Atwater – Thunder senior Chris Portillo sent the game into overtime by hitting a pair of free throws with 5 seconds left in regulation. Portillo and Jake Abrams both scored five points each in the 4-minute overtime period as Buhach Colony (10-11, 2-4 CCC) pulled away for the win.
“Portillo played like a senior tonight,” said Buhach Colony coach Steve Abrams. “The guys played together tonight. We had some balanced scoring.”
Portillo finished with nine points. Abrams led BC with 17 points and Irik Dobbins scored 10.
The Thunder came back from an 18-point deficit in the first half as the Falcons (1-6 CCC) jumped out to a 27-9 lead. Saul Avitia led Atwater with 24 points and Fernando Jeronimo added 23 points.
With a three-man officiating crew working the game there was 55 fouls called between the two teams.
“We didn’t execute,” said Atwater coach Kanoa Smith. “BC kept fighting, they knocked down some big shots. All credit goes to them.”
Livingston 61, Los Banos 57 at Los Banos – Kevin Alvarez poured in 35 points, including five 3-pointers to lead the Wolves (11-10 overall, 3-1 Western Athletic Conference) to a win on the road over the Tigers.
Turlock 2, Buhach Colony 0 in Turlock – Samuel Goana and Axel Altamirano scored goals for the Bulldogs in a battle of two of the top teams in the CCC. Turlock improved to 4-0-1 in the conference. Buhach Colony goalie Adrian Bracamontes finished with six saves as the Thunder (6-3 overall, 4-1 CCC) suffered their first CCC loss.
Atwater 2, Merced 0 in Atwater – Gerardo Delgadillo and Carlos Bravo scored goals as the Falcons won their second game of the week to improve to 2-0-3 in the CCC. Bravo also recorded an assist. Carlos Rogel finished with seven saves for Merced (0-5 CCC).