For the second time this season, the San Marcos boys basketball team narrowly got past crosstown rival Dos Pueblos, this time, Monday night at the Thunderhot.
With 2.5 seconds remaining, the Chargers had one last look at the basket but a shot from guard Justin Stock clanked off the rim and a put-back attempt came just a second after the buzzer sounded, giving the Royals a thrilling 55-54 Channel League win.
“We just made enough plays,” an elated James Kinzler, the coach for San Marcos, said after the game. “At the end of the day, that is what it takes.”
With the win, San Marcos hopes of staying alive and earning a top-four finish in the Channel League for CIF playoff berth got larger. The team is now 5-4 in league (7-15 overall) and tied for fourth place with Rio Mesa.
Dos Pueblos fell to 7-16 overall and 2-8 in league play.
“It’s a tight race, but it’s fun. We have had a long season and lots of opponents so to be in some games that matter, I’m really happy for our guys,” Kinzler said.
Still, San Marcos was just a few plays away from walking away upset and with a loss.
With under six minutes left in the game, the Royals held a 7-point advantage. But a well-timed timeout from Dos Pueblos coach Joe Zamora seemed to get his team back into shape.
“We needed to make sure that we’re talking on defense and we wanted to keep Micah (Jacobi) out of the paint. I thought we did a real good job after that (timeout),” Zamora said.
The other thing the Chargers did really well was run.
After a basket by senior forward Daniel Mauldin cut the deficit to five, the two teams traded turnovers and missed baskets.
But with 3:47 remaining, junior Micah Goss drove into the paint and kicked the ball out to wide open Grant Hughes in the corner. Hughes knocked down the three-ball and cut the lead to two, 47-45.
The teams would trade baskets until a huge offensive rebound and put-back by Hughes suddenly gave the Chargers a 52-51 advantage, the team’s first lead since the end of the first quarter.
San Marcos responded at the free-throw line, as Owen Lauderdale knocked down a pair to give the Royals the lead right back, 53-52
Following a miss by Dos Pueblos with 48 seconds left, then a foul with 36 seconds to go, San Marcos didn’t need to put up another shot.
However, senior Andre McCullough corralled a tough pass and threw up a layup that found the bottom of the net to give San Marcos a 55-52 lead with 14.2 seconds.
“That layup at the end was also questionable clock management,” said Kinzler. “I’m yelling at him, because I think I just burned my last time out, ‘No, no, we don’t have to shoot, just let them foul.’ But we’ll live with it.”
The next mistake nearly burned them.
With just over 10 seconds remaining, San Marcos fouled DP’s Shane Grant, and he knocked down both free throws to give the Chargers a chance.
Kinzler said the plan was to be aggressive but not foul, as there was too much time on the clock and anything could happen.
On the ensuing possession, San Marcos missed the front end of a 1-and-1 and Chargers rebounded the ball, got it past half court, and called a timeout.
San Marcos buckled down on defense and escaped with the victory.
“Thankfully, we were able to defend the pass in such a way that they were going away from the basket and then we just put good pressure on,” said Kinzler.
Zamora said he drew up a play with two options and the ball went to Stock, who tried to draw a foul on the shot.
“He just couldn’t get it off,” Zamora said. “But we had an opportunity and we gave ourselves a look.”
Jacobi, who returned from injury, led San Marcos in scoring with 12 points while McCullough chipped in 10.
Dos Pueblos was led by Joe Talerico, who scored a game-high 14 points despite fouling out near the 3-minute mark. Hughes finished with 12 points while Stock had 11 points
San Marcos will face second-place Buena at home on Wednesday while Dos Pueblos will travel to face Pacifica of Oxnard.