For Scott Ferguson, Saturday’s Southern Section 2-AA boys’ basketball championship game came down to some pretty basic things.
“All I knew (is) that if they scored, they would win,” said Ferguson, the 6-foot-7 center for Whittier Christian High School. “If we scored, we’d win. That’s all that I was thinking.”
Ferguson made sure it was Whittier Christian that did the scoring--especially when it counted. His layup with 28 seconds left in overtime gave the Heralds a 69-67 victory over top-seeded Banning at the Los Angeles Sports Arena.
Ferguson’s effort on the final basket was pure determination. He missed his first attempt--a layup--then outfought two Banning players for the rebound, which he banked in from three feet.
“After I missed that shot, I wanted that ball back,” Ferguson said. “They were not going to get it. I wanted another chance.”
Banning (21-5) had two opportunities to come back. David Gray missed an 18-foot jump shot with 2 seconds left, but the rebound was knocked out of bounds by the Heralds with 1 second left. Don Leary tossed up a three-pointer at the buzzer, but it didn’t come close.
Ferguson grabbed the final rebound--his 13th of the game and his most treasured.
“I remember being here two years ago and losing,” Ferguson said. “I did not want to go through that again.”
Whittier Christian (22-6) had reached the championship game two of the past three years, losing both times. Ferguson was on the 1987 team that lost to Crossroads in the 1-A final.
Ferguson’s desire to win this time was apparent; he scored 18 points, 13 in the second half and overtime.
“We were taking too many outside shots in the first half,” forward Paul McKinley said. “We decided to get the ball into Ferg and let him do his thing.”
But it was Ferguson’s defense, not his offense, in the final minute of regulation that helped the Heralds the most.
Two free throws by Derrick Paige gave the Broncos a 65-61 lead with 1:16 left.
Rob Diaz’s 15-foot jumper got Whittier Christian within two.
Banning attempted to run out the clock, but David Gray was called for a 5-second violation, giving the ball back to Whittier Christian.
Diaz, who finished with only six points, made another 10-foot jumper to tie the score at 65 with 18 seconds left.
“The last two teams we’ve played have lost their composure on the court,” said McKinley, who had 21 points. “We were not going to do the same thing. We kept our cool.”
With 10 seconds left, Leary drove toward the basket, but Ferguson swatted the shot away.
The Heralds had a chance to win at the end of regulation, but Ferguson missed a 12-footer with 2 seconds left.
“That was all right with us,” said Bob Brown, Whittier Christian’s first-year coach. “I was just glad we didn’t throw it away in the backcourt and give them an easy shot.”
The Heralds had problems with that for most of the game.
The Broncos, with no starter taller than 6-2, tried to negate the size disadvantage with flailing arms and quickness.
They pressed the entire game, with moderate success. During the first few minutes, Whittier Christian couldn’t handle the pressure and turned the ball over five consecutive times.
Banning’s Donell Henderson (19 points) and Kelvin Nelson (12 points) each had five steals, some resulting in easy layups.
But by halftime, Whittier Christian appeared to have solved the problem. The Heralds broke the Broncos’ press by inbounding the ball to Ferguson, who simply threw the ball over defenders.
“Our idea was to not dribble the ball,” Brown said. “We knew how quick Banning was and that they get a lot of steals by tipping the ball away from behind. So we didn’t want to put the ball on the floor.”
Several times, Ferguson was able to get the ball to McKinley along the sideline, which led to easy points.
Whittier Christian also began exploiting their size on the offensive board. With three starters 6-4 or taller, the Heralds often got two or three shots.
Whittier Christian outrebounded Banning, 61-40.
McKinley scored consecutive baskets off Ferguson assists late in the third quarter as the Heralds took a 49-39 lead.
But Banning then went on a 22-8 run led by Henderson, who scored eight points in the fourth quarter.
Banning led 63-59 with 1:36 left.
“We knew we could come back,” Ferguson said. “We just had to remain cool.”