There was at least one person in the Pitman High gym that was confident Dominick Von Waaden’s shot in the final seconds wasn’t going in.
It was the Golden Valley High player guarding him.
“He didn’t have it,” said Cougars junior Etrell Bowers as he shook his head with a wide smile on his face shortly after the game in the Golden Valley locker room. “I played perfect D on that. If the refs would have called a foul, I would have been made.”
The Cougars didn’t stop Von Waaden very often on Thursday night, but Bowers came up with a stop when it mattered as the Von Waaden misfired on a potential game-winning shot in the final seconds. Pitman’s Christian Williams tried to put up a shot on the rebound, but he was tied up by Golden Valley’s Sam Croninger and was unable to get up a shot in time.
Final: Golden Valley 64, Pitman 63 in double overtime.
“We won with sheer grit,” said Cougars coach Keith Hunter. “We had some guys foul out. We struggled to get a rebound at times. We missed some key free throws, but our guys are resilient. They just kept battling. Etrell made some big plays. Devon (Martinez) made some big plays. And we got a little lucky at the end.”
Bowers wasn’t lying about playing perfect defense on the final play.
The Cougars switched a screen at the top of the key that put Bowers on Von Waaden, who had scored 22 of his game-high 29 points in the second half and two 4-minute overtime periods.
It was two of the top players in the Central California Conference players going against each other with the game on the line.
Von Waaden backed Bowers down with three dribbles and then spun over his right shoulder to release a 12-foot fade away in the paint. Bowers was in position with a hand up and Von Waaden missed to the right.
It was a big-time night on both sides of the ball for Bowers, who led GV with 28 points and 10 rebounds. With Cyrus Allen (12 points) fouling out with 2:11 left in the first overtime, Bowers and Martinez combined to score 11 of the Cougars’ 12 points in the two overtime period.
“It was a big-time performance by Etrell,” said Hunter, whose team improved to 17-6 overall and 6-2 in the CCC. “Thank goodness he didn’t foul out. He made some tremendous plays for us.”
The game was nip and tuck the whole way with the game tied at the end of the third quarter, fourth quarter and the first overtime period.
Von Waaden played almost the entire way for Pitman (16-7, 4-4 CCC).
“He did come out of the game for 16 seconds in between quarters,” said Pride coach Harvey Marable. “He’s a four-year varsity player. He’s one of the best players in the league.”
Williams added 19 points for the Pride.
It looked as if Golden Valley was going to be able to win so many times, but it was Pitman coming up with a play to extend the game.
Devon Martinez (14 points) scored on a layup and drew a foul late in regulation. His free throw gave the Cougars a 52-50 lead with 11.4 seconds left.
Von Waaden then dribbled down the court and stopped at the free throw line where GV fans thought he dragged his pivot foot. Somehow Von Waaden regained his balance, and eventually leaned in for a shot he banked off the glass to tie the game at 52-52 and send the game to overtime.
Williams then hit a free throw with 4.1 seconds left in the first overtime to tie the game at 55-55.
The lead changed hands seven times in the second overtime as Bowers sank two free throws to give Golden Valley a 64-62 lead with 59.1 seconds remaining.
The Cougars were playing short-handed at the end with Allen, Bryan Livesay and August Tangaan having all fouled out of the game.
“We were basically without our best play, so I had to step up,” Bowers said. “We all had to step up.”
It looked as if the Pride were going to take the lead late in the second overtime, but Navjit Bath’s layup attempt somehow rolled off the rim. Bowers tried to rebound the ball, but was out of bounds.
That led to Von Waaden’s miss and the Golden Valley bench stormed the court. The win moves the Cougars within a half game of El Capitan (6-1 CCC) atop the conference standings. Golden Valley travels to El Capitan on Wednesday.
“This was a huge win for us,” Bowers said. “Now we’re looking forward to the El Capitan game next week.”
Golden Valley 40, Pitman 32 in Merced – The girls made it a boys/girls sweep over the Pride on Thursday night as Grace Mello scored 13 points and pulled down 10 rebounds for the Cougars (7-14 overall, 3-4 CCC). Delia Moore added 12 points, 12 rebounds, nine steals and eight assists for Golden Valley.
Merced 53, Buhach Colony 40 in Atwater – The Bears improved to 17-3 overall and 6-1 in the CCC with a win at the Thunder Dome.
Los Banos 70, Ceres 49 at Ceres – Erika Gutierrez finished with 25 points, 14 rebounds and six steals as the Tigers improved to 14-9 overall and 5-1 in the Western Athletic Conference. Amelia Smith added 13 points and seven assists for Los Banos.