Three times forward Ibn Maddred went to the free throw line in overtime with an opportunity to clinch the Southern Section 5-AA division championship for Millikan High School and three times Maddred missed his shots.
But Maddred finally found the mark with 5 seconds remaining, hitting two free throws that sealed Millikan’s 62-59 victory over Saddleback in front of 6,326 fans Saturday night in the Los Angeles Sports Arena.
For Millikan Coach Bill Odell, the title was 18 years in the making. Millikan had lost to Verbum Dei in the 1974 championship and to Mater Dei in the 1987 championship under Odell, but the Rams (25-6) stopped Saddleback’s 22-game winning streak to earn the elusive title.
“This is what we’ve dreamed about,” Odell said. “I can’t believe we had the opportunity for this, and the kids made the most of it. They just kept coming back all year.”
But Saddleback staged the comeback in regulation play Saturday night. The Roadrunners (27-2) trailed, 55-52, with 2:13 remaining when Odell decided to go into a delay game. The tactic nearly cost the Rams the title.
Saddleback created three turnovers down the stretch, with the final mistake leading to Sean Simon’s 14-foot jump shot with 5 seconds remaining that tied the score, 57-57.
But center Malru Dottin’s bank shot with 42 seconds remaining was the only points Saddleback managed in the extra 3-minute period. Still, the Roadrunners had an opportunity to win the game with 8 seconds remaining, but Millikan’s Terry Hilliard tipped the ball away from Dottin, setting up his game-winning free throw 3 seconds later.
“I was trying to hide behind Malru Dottin, hoping we wouldn’t see me,” Hilliard said. “I saw his eyes looking that way (toward the ball) and I went for it.”
Dottin led all scorers with 27 points, but it was the loss of guard Craig Marshall--who went to the bench with five fouls at the 3:18 mark in the fourth quarter--that hurt Saddleback most of all.
“Even though Craig was off tonight (he made only 3 of 14 shots), we still needed him in there for his defense,” Dottin said. “I’m disappointed. I don’t know how to explain this.”
Pat Quinn, Saddleback coach, said missed shots and unforced turnovers in the second half hurt Saddleback most. The Roadrunners shot only 32% from the field and committed 15 turnovers.
“We lost our confidence missing a lot of easy shots,” Quinn said. “We sent them to the free throw line too much. We never got loose . . . we never got going.”
Saddleback outrebounded Millikan, 49-39, but even that statistic was misleading, according to Quinn.
“Yeah, we got a lot of rebounds, but we never put them back in on the offensive end,” he said. “This (sectional title) is what we wanted, but we’ll regroup and come back for the regionals.”
Saddleback is expected to be granted an at-large berth in the Southern California Division I regionals, but will be traveling Tuesday night for its first-round game. Pairings will be announced today at the Southern Section office in Cerritos.