Bill Peterson, Kearny High School boys' basketball coach, never worries when point guard Chris Ortiz is in a shooting slump.
That's because Ortiz usually finds other ways to rally the fourth-ranked Komets.
Ortiz combined scrappy play, timely assists and three free throws in the final minute to lead Kearny (16-4, 3-2) to a 56-48 victory over La Jolla (11-6, 3-2) in a Western League game at Kearny Friday night. The victory helped create a four-way tie for first in the Western League among Kearny, La Jolla, Mission Bay and University City.
With Kearny leading, 51-48, with 2:14 remaining, Ortiz scored the game's final five points.
Ortiz drove for a layup to give Kearny a 53-48 lead with 1:43 remaining. A minute later, he tried to drive again but turned the ball over. Ortiz recovered, raced across the court and stole the ball back.
"He (La Jolla guard Jerome Sherman) had stolen the ball a couple times before," Ortiz said. "Randy (Robinson) came on by and made him turn to his right."
When Sherman turned in, Ortiz was waiting for him.
Ortiz stole the ball and was fouled with 43 seconds remaining. He then hit both ends of a one-and-one as Kearny led, 55-48. Ortiz then hit the front end of a one-and-one with 28 seconds left as he scored 7 of his 12 points in the fourth quarter.
"I don't want to be one of those players that when you're not hitting the jumper you go into the tank," Ortiz said. "When I'm not hitting my jumper, I try to create something like assists."
Ortiz made two of the game's most important assists.
Kearny led, 34-22, at the half, but La Jolla rallied by outscoring Kearny, 13-2, to start the third quarter. Guard Davey Berteaux scored the first nine points of the quarter to help pull La Jolla within one, 36-35, with 4:48 remaining.
But Ortiz rallied Kearny with two passes to Robinson that turned into one-handed slams. Kearny outscored La Jolla, 12-2, to take a 48-37 lead with 5:52 remaining.
Ortiz could have gone to the basket on both shots, but decided to feed Robinson for the scores.
"That's just psychology," Ortiz said. "That works most of the time."
It almost didn't work this time.
La Jolla rallied again, scoring nine straight points to pull within two, 48-46, with 3:08 left. After the teams traded baskets, Robinson hit a free throw and Kearny led, 51-48. Ortiz then went to work.
Ortiz, who averages 16 points a game, has been in a shooting slump the past two games. He scored just four points in a 59-54 loss to last-place Clairemont Tuesday. Ortiz was still not sharp from the field against La Jolla.
"You could say I was in a slump," Ortiz said. "But I try not to think about it. When my team needed me there at the end, I was there."