There's a "Hoosiers"-like story unfolding at Sherman Oaks Buckley, which is 30-0 and keeps finding ways to win.
The kindergarten-through-12th-grade school is generating so much excitement in basketball that 8-year-old Buckley students are showing up to cheer well past their bedtime and charging onto the court to celebrate.
That was the case on Tuesday night, when Chase Holliday scored on a layup with three seconds left to give the Griffins a 61-59 victory over Harvard-Westlake in a Southern Section Division 4AA quarterfinal game.
What's clear about Buckley is that it has a standout 6-foot-3 junior guard in Austin Butler, who knows how to rise up when needed. He scored 19 points and had three blocks in the second half trying to cool off Harvard-Westlake's Derick Newton, who finished with 24 points.
Butler and his teammates are motivated by the skeptics. Buckley is seeded No. 1 in the tournament but hasn't received the respect of a top-seeded team.
"They were actually talking trash before the game saying we haven't played anyone," Butler said. "We came out and showed we could beat a good team."
It was an emotional game for Buckley Coach Mike Hamilton, a former Harvard-Westlake assistant coaching against his mentor, Greg Hilliard, for the first time. Hamilton was able to set up a game-winning play for Holliday, who drove down the middle and found no one in his way.
Harvard-Westlake seemed on the verge of breaking the game open to start the third quarter, going on a 7-0 run.
"We really dug deep and realized this could have been the last game we played with our seniors," Butler said. "We fought as hard as we could."
Next up for Buckley is JSerra, a 65-59 winner over Encino Crespi. JSerra has a 6-11 center and comes from the powerful Trinity League, so Buckley again will be an underdog. But last season, Buckley knocked off 7-4 center Mamadou Ndiaye of Huntington Beach Brethren Christian.
"The key is working hard, staying focused and doing what Coach tells us to do," Butler said.