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Livingston loses in overtime thriller

LIVINGSTON -- Brian Rivera was hoping for the same magic.

The Livingston senior had sent the game into overtime with a 3-pointer in the corner with three seconds left in regulation.

Rivera found the ball in his hands again in overtime with the final seconds ticking off the clock.

Rivera worked for a good look. However, this time his 3-pointer from the top of the key was off the mark.

Seconds later, Rivera managed to get a desperation shot off that fell short as Natomas escaped with a 96-94 win in a thrilling Sac-Joaquin Section Division III first round playoff game on Wednesday night.

"I was just looking to create a shot for a teammate or myself," said Rivera, who scored 15 of his 17 points in the fourth quarter and overtime.

"I got an open look and just hoped for the best."

It was a tough ending to a great season that included Livingston's first conference title since 1987.

"It was a great season and a great bunch of kids," said Livingston coach Angelo Naldi, whose team finished 21-7.

"I don't think they outworked us. They had more talent. Natomas didn't have the height, but they had the speed."

The game was played at warp speed from the opening tip.

Livingston pounded the ball into its 6-foot-5 center Harnarinder Johal and the senior turned in a monster game with 34 points,

17 rebounds and 5 blocks.

Fellow senior Dorian Campos went out in style himself with 28 points.

However, both playmakers found themselves on the bench after fouling out.

Campos fouled out late in the fourth quarter and Johal midway through overtime.

"I'm a captain, I should have been out there leading," Campos said. "It was frustrating. Especially watching overtime from the bench."

After Johal fouled out with 2:22 left in overtime, Natomas (17-11) erased a four-point deficit by closing out the game on an 11-5 run.

Mustaffa Vercher scored six of his 20 points during the final 2:22 to propel Natomas to victory.

Natomas advances to the second round on Friday against No. 3 Foothill.

"We played hard," Campos said. "We just made minor miscues here and there that cost us.

"I guess all good things have to come to an end."

Shawn Jansen is a Sun-Star sports reporter. He can be reached at 385-2462 or via e-mail at sjansen@mercedsun-star.com.

At Livingston

NAT 21 15 20 29 11 -- 96

LIV 16 14 30 25 9 -- 94

NATOMAS -- Terrance Haris 22, Markeysse Haney 10, Tre Thomas 4, Isiah Robinson 16, Mustaffa Vercher 20, Bobby Richard 6, Juelian Jones 10, Anthony Pierce 8. Totals: 38 13-27 96.

LIVINGSTON -- Gabriel Del Toro 2, Chris Modi 2, Josh Avina 8, Brian Rivera 17, Harnarinder Johal 34, Luis Castellanos 1, Dorian Campos 28, Gurpreet Sangha 2. Totals: 33 24-32 94.

3-pointers: Natomas 5 (Jones 2, Robinson 1, Harris 1, Haney 1), Livingston 3 (Campos 2, Rivera 1); Team Fouls: Natomas 25, Livingston 23; Fouled Out -- Campos (L), Johal (L).

Records: Natomas 17-11; Livingston 21-7.

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