Yutaka Shimizu, a man of few words, had even less to say than usual when asked about his Kennedy High basketball team's performance Wednesday night against El Camino Real in a Valley 4-A League game.
"We won," the Golden Cougars' coach said. "Let's leave it at that."
Kennedy escaped from the Conquistadores' gym with a 51-48 victory even though the Golden Cougars made only three field goals in the second half. Kennedy (8-4) had just 14 points in the last two quarters, but hung on to improve its record in league to 3-1.
The Conquistadores, who fell to 2-3 in league, made just two baskets in the final eight minutes, but still had a chance to tie the game at the end.
El Camino Real (8-5) had the ball with 17 seconds left, trailing by two, but Adam Sacks could only manage an off-balance shot from the top of the key with two seconds left.
The shot missed, and Kennedy's Marcus Malone collected the rebound. He was fouled and made one free throw with no time left to conclude the scoring.
"That was not the shot we wanted," El Camino Real Coach Mike McNulty said. "We didn't run the offense. We didn't have a preference as to who we wanted to shoot, but we wanted to run our man offense and get a wide-open jumper. But they panicked a little, and nobody moved."
Kennedy did a lot of moving around in the first half, and the result was a 37-28 Golden Cougar lead at halftime.
To El Camino Real, it must have seemed as if Kennedy had bodies everywhere when the Golden Cougars applied their full-court press.
Kennedy forced 15 turnovers in the first half, most of them off the press. An 18-14 Kennedy advantage quickly became 27-16 as the Conquistadores had repeated trouble getting the ball past midcourt.
"We worked on the press in practice," McNulty said, "but we were just not patient in attacking it."
El Camino Real did a better job against the press in the second half, committing no turnovers. As a result, the Conquistadores climbed back into the game.
With Shaun Stephenson scoring six points in the third quarter, the Conquistadores trailed by only one, 43-42, entering the final quarter.
For nearly half of the fourth quarter, the two teams combined for just five free throws. Kennedy missed eight free throws in the fourth quarter, including four front ends of one-and-one opportunities.
Still, the Conquistadores could not catch the Golden Cougars. With 1:11 left, Sacks, who had a team-high 13 points, hit a seven-foot jumper to make it 50-48 Kennedy.
Greg Fontenette, who had 10 points, missed two free throws for Kennedy with 54 seconds left. El Camino Real's Rick Hergott then missed a driving layup with 28 seconds left. It was Hergott's first action in nearly three weeks. He had been sidelined with illness.
With 20 seconds left, Kennedy's Kendell McDaniels missed a free throw, setting up El Camino Real's final shot.
Said Shimizu: "We are lucky to get out of here with our skin and teeth."