San Marcos kept their playoff hopes alive after a Rio Mesa fourth-quarter rally fell short and the Royals posted a 62-58 Channel League road win.
The Royals, now 7-6 in league play, can clinch fourth place and an automatic CIF playoff bid with a win at home over Santa Barbara on Friday, time to be determined.
If the Royals lose to the Dons, they would finish in a tie with the Spartans (7-7) for fourth place and face them in a home play-in game Friday night.
San Marcos led the Spartans 32-21 at the half Wednesday, behind nine points from Micah Jacobi and seven from Joe Pasternack.
That 11-point lead persevered to the end of the third, 49-38, with the help of two big baskets by Wyatt Miller and timely 3-pointers from Diego Reyes, Pasternack and Jacobi.
Full-court pressure from the Spartans in the fourth quarter led to turnovers and missed shots by San Marcos, allowing Rio Mesa to cut the led to one at 59-58 with 50 seconds remaining.
A clutch offensive rebound by San Marcos freshman Koji Hefner on a teammate’s miss on the front end of a one-and-one led to the Spartans fouling Pasternack with 28 seconds left. Pasternack made the first and missed the second on the one-and-one — leading to another clutch offensive rebound, this time by Owen Lauderdale.
San Marcos called time out leading 60-58, and after the ensuing inbound the ball got to Hefner, who was fouled with 15 seconds left. The freshman calmly sank both free throws to provide the final margin of 62-58.
“Grateful for the effort our guys gave tonight, doing what needed to be done to get the win,” said Royals coach James Kinzler. “Lots of hustle plays on both ends of the court, some timely shooting, a couple of huge offensive rebounds there at the end and a couple clutch free throws from Koji to seal it. It was another step for us in a really fun week of high school basketball.”
Jacobi scored 14 to lead the Royals, Pasternack added 13 and Andre McCullough finished with 10.