BELLFLOWER — It was the type of game Ocean View boys' basketball coach Tim Walsh had hoped he'd get from his team.
An up-tempo, hot-shooting performance: check.
Keep pace with a favored, top-ranked opponent: check.
Fight to the final buzzer: check.
Walsh couldn't have drawn up a better game plan. There was only one thing that eluded Ocean View in a wild and frantic ending: victory.
The No. 4-seeded Seahawks had the top-seeded team in CIF Southern Section Division 3A, St. John Bosco, on the ropes during Friday's semifinal showdown, but they couldn't convert last-second chances and fell in an 89-87 heart-stopper before a standing-room-only crowd at Bosco.
Walsh said Tuesday, following Ocean View's quarterfinal victory over Northwood, he had hoped the Seahawks would give St. John Bosco its first challenge in the postseason. The Braves, after all, had had been on a roll in the playoffs, winning their first three games by no less than 30 points.
It appeared St. John Bosco (23-6) was on its way to another double-digit victory after it took a 13-point lead, 77-64, with 7:17 left in the game. That's when Ocean View (23-7), which led the Braves for a majority of the first half and early in the second half, began to claw back.
The challenge was on, and the comeback left an impression on Walsh.
"That shows you the character of this team," he said, dejected but proud of his team in defeat. "Our guys never stopped believing. We had so many chances but just couldn't come through at the end. I'm just so, so proud of our kids."
The Seahawks, champions of the Golden West League, still trailed, 86-79, with 3:26 remaining, when they turned to an area of their game where no Seahawks team had ever been as successful: three-point range. Back-to-back three-point baskets by junior guard Jelani Jackson and senior guard Josh Mishler, brought Ocean View to within 86-85 with 2:05 left. On the Braves' next possession, 6-foot-8 power forward Darien Williams missed a layup and Seahawks junior forward Dillon Reise grabbed the rebound.
At the other end, sophomore guard Kendall Small was fouled on a drive to the basket, but missed the front end of a one-and-one situation with 1:34 to go. With just over a minute to play, St. John Bosco star shooting guard Isaac Hamilton scored on a twisting layup to put the Braves up, 88-85. Reise then missed from three-point range but the Braves' Tyler Dorsey missed the front end of a one-and-one situation with 29.6 seconds left, and Small grabbed the rebound. At the other end of the floor, Jackson was fouled in the act of shooting with 13.6 seconds left, and sank his two foul shots to make it a one-point game (88-87).
St. John Bosco then had a chance to add to its lead three seconds later but guard Riley Laines, in his first attempts of the game from the foul line, missed both shots. Reise grabbed the rebound off the second miss and the Seahawks headed down the floor. Small penetrated the key toward the basket, and was fouled in the act of shooting by Hamilton with 4.8 seconds remaining. Both of Small's free-throw attempts rolled around the rim, and out. Hamilton grabbed the rebound and was fouled by Small. He made the second of two attempts for an 89-87 lead.
With 1.8 seconds on the clock, Ocean View still had a chance. The Seahawks inbounded the ball but called time out with 0.8 seconds. On a designed play, the next inbounds pass, intended for Reise near the Ocean View basket, was intercepted along the baseline by Hamilton as the buzzer sounded.
"We had three options there at the end, and we tried to get it inside to Dillon [Reise], but they were able to break it up," Walsh said. "We had our chances but just couldn't do it. [Hamilton] is so good and made that final stop there.
"I'm unhappy with the loss, but really, really proud of our guys for fighting back the way they did. They played this team, which is really talented, toe-to-toe and we could have won this game."
Ocean View led, 27-23, after one quarter. The Seahawks took their biggest lead of the game, 30-23, on a three-point shot by sophomore guard Tyler Burch eight seconds into the second quarter. They still led, 38-34, on a jumper with 4:22 left in the half by senior guard Nathan Kosai. Hamilton gave St. John Bosco a 41-38 lead on a three-point play but the Seahawks moved into a 41-41 tie on a three from the corner by Jackson.
The Braves, who finished runner-up in the Trinity League to Mater Dei, the top-ranked team in Division 1AA, eventually took a 45-43 lead into the half.
A layup by Jackson to start the second half put the teams even at 45-45, and he delivered another three-pointer from the corner a minute later, which gave Ocean View its final lead of the game, 50-48. In less than two minutes after Jackson's three-pointer, St. John Bosco went on a 15-0 tear, and just like that, the Braves were on top, 63-50, with 3:45 left in the quarter.
Ocean View trailed, 73-64, entering the fourth quarter.
The Seahawks, who had a 10-game win streak snapped, made a school-record 19 three-pointers in 33 attempts. Reise led the way with 24 points to go with 11 rebounds and five assists, and was seven of 10 from three-point range. Burch hit half of his 10 three-point shot attempts and scored 21 points with seven assists. Jackson was four of five from behind the arc and scored 20 points. Small had 12 points, five assists and five steals.
"It's a tough one to lose but like I've been saying, I couldn't be more proud of our kids," Walsh said. "They never quit and to go with that, our crowd here, was awesome. They gave this team a lot of love and support all night."
Hamilton, who has signed with Texas El Paso and was selected last week to the West team and will play in the McDonald's All American Game in Chicago on April 3, led all scorers with 43 points and had eight rebounds.