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Tuesday, March 19 , 2019, 12:19 am | Fair 53º

Sports: A Noozhawk Partnership with Santa Barbara Athletic Round Table, The Lab, and American Riviera Bank
Boys Basketball

Santa Barbara Suffers Tough Break Down Stretch, Falls to Palm Springs, 57-55, in CIF Semifinal

Dons take lead in last minute, but Indians make two free throws with 4 seconds left to advance to final

Bryce Warrecker Click to view larger
Bryce Warrecker of Santa Barbara goes up for a shot against Palm Springs’ Parker Hunt. Warrecker led all scorers with 21 points.  (Gary Kim. / Noozhawk photo)

There was one big play after another in Saturday’s CIF-SS 3A Division semifinal boys basketball game between Santa Barbara High and Palm Springs.

But in the end, it was a pair of free throws by Damien King of Palm Springs following a controversial blocking call against the Dons with 4.1 seconds left that decided the outcome.

King’s two makes were the difference in the Indians beating top-seeded Santa Barbara, 57-55, at a raucous J.R. Richards Gym.

Palm Springs (26-5) advances to the 3A championship next weekend against Capistrano Valley Christian while Santa Barbara (28-4) is expected to receive a berth in next week’s CIF State Regionals.

“It was a great game, great atmosphere … it felt good,” said Palm Springs coach Chris Howard. “Our goal was to keep this thing in the 50s and we did.”

Santa Barbara trailed from the start of the game but battled back and took its first lead (49-47) on a three-pointer by junior Bryce Warrecker with 6:38 left in the fourth quarter. 

The Dons, playing tough man-to-man defense in the fourth quarter, forced a couple of turnovers but were unable to convert them into points. They missed a pair of layups on a possession and grabbed the offensive rebound but threw the ball into the back court for a violation. On another possession, Parker Hunt, Palm Spring’s 6-foot-6 center, blocked a Warrecker shot.

Senior Aiden Douglas took a feed from Warrecker and buried a three to a 52-49 lead.

But King answered with a three-pointer from the deep corner to tie the score at 52 with 1:32 left. He scored seven points of his 15 points in the fourth quarter.

Jasper Johnson Click to view larger
Jasper Johnson drives to the hoop during CIF 3A semifinal game at J.R. Richards Gym. (Gary Kim / Noozhawk photo)

“These kids executed everything to a T tonight and this is not an easy team to execute against,” Howard said of the Dons. “They have five threats on the court at all times.”

Douglas came up big again for the Dons, knocking down another trey for a 55-52 advantage with 1:08 left.

Jackson Hamilton forced a tie-up but Palm Springs had the possession arrow in its favor.

The Indians missed a three but Hunt grabbed the offensive rebound. They got the ball to King who buried another deep three to knot the score at 55-55 with 48 seconds to go.

Hunt blocked another Warrecker shot, setting up the crucial possession of the game.

Santa Barbara was playing lock-down man defense, but King back-doored his defender, got the ball and drove to the basket. Hamilton came over to draw a charging foul and there was a collision. There was no call made by the official at the baseline but the official near mid-court blew a late whistle and called Hamilton for a blocking foul with 4.1 seconds left.

“It’s not one play,” Santa Barbara coach Dave Bregante said. “You can go back and find a play every single quarter in a game like this.”

King made both free throws for a 57-55 lead and Palm Springs called a timeout to set up its defensive strategy.

With only four team fouls, the Indians smartly fouled Davis at half court with 2.5 seconds left.

Santa Barbara called time out to set up for a game-tying or game-winning shot. Davis received the inbound pass, dribbled up the left side and, with two defenders on him, fired up a desperation shot that fell short.

The Dons’ dream of playing for a CIF championship was over.

“We just battling, kept playing hard,” Bregante said. “We made plays that kept us in the game when we were down — we didn’t quit.

“We just kept competing and finally got the lead. A couple plays here and there and we would have won it.”

The Dons fell behind 18-10 in the first quarter as Palm Springs erupted for a 12-0 run.

Santa Barbara went to a zone in the second quarter to disrupt the Indians and cut the deficit to 31-27 by halftime.

Palm Springs went up by eight (45-37) in the third quarter, but Warrecker and Davis got hot and pulled to within three (47-44) at the end of the period.

Warrecker, who led the Dons with 21 points, felt bad the seniors won’t be going to the championship game. 

“I’m really bummed I couldn’t pull it through with these guys — love this group.

“I get to come back next year. I’ll remember this for the rest of my life . Just got to keep working even harder.”

Douglas had 12 points and Davis added 11 for Santa Barbara (28-4).

Elijah Goad scored 16 points and Hunt contributed 11 for Palm Springs (26-5).

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