Saddleback and Fresno Edison high schools matched slashing moves to the basket and gritty hustle for nearly all of their first-round Division I Southern California Regional playoff game Tuesday night.
But Saddleback let one 5-second lapse ruin its chance for a stirring victory. Instead, the Roadrunners were left to ponder a 63-62 loss to Edison before a standing-room-only crowd at Edison.
And the final 5 seconds will long remain in the memories of the Roadrunners.
In that span, Saddleback, leading, 62-61, watched Edison guard Sean Stell drive the length of the court and hit a five-foot bank shot at the buzzer.
No one stepped in his path to cut off Stell and as a result the Roadrunners are out of the regionals.
After going through most of the season with just one loss, the Roadrunners finished with two in a row. Saddleback, which lost in the Southern Section 5-AA game to Millikan, 62-59, in overtime Saturday finished its season 27-2.
Edison (22-6) advances to play Crenshaw in the semifinals Thursday.
“We wanted to make the ball go into the front court and make a wall and not let them go into the middle,” Saddleback Coach Pat Quinn said. “That’s exactly what didn’t happen. Everybody stood around and hoped the horn would go off.”
Stell’s shot swished through with 1 second left, then the horn sounded. Stell was mobbed by teammates and fans at center court.
“I hate to say it, but it was exactly what we wanted,” Edison Coach Bill Engel said. “For once something we drew up worked.”
Said Stell, who scored 16 points: “All night they had been giving me the inside shots like that one and I was passing off. This time I just pulled up and shot it.”
The jumper was the third, and final, lead change in the last minute of the game.
Twice Saddleback, undaunted by a long bus ride and a distinct home-court disadvantage in the Tigers’ noisy gym, rallied from big deficits. The first time the Roadrunners cut a 12-point Edison lead down to six in the first half.
Later, Saddleback trailed by eight early in the fourth quarter, but slowly chipped away at the lead. Key baskets by center Malru Dottin and forward Craig Marshall got the Roadrunners close. And when guard Sean Simon made a 10-foot jumper, Saddleback took the lead, 54-53, with 3:33 left.
The Roadrunners extended it to 58-53 on a driving layup by Dottin and a fast-break basket by Marshall.
Dottin had 11 points, but fouled out with 1:56 left. Marshall led Saddleback with 23 points.
Edison, led by guard Bruce Bowen’s 26 points, didn’t fade, however. Trailing, 60-57, Stell hit two free throws with 1:07 left.
Saddleback’s Tony Agnew lost the ball out of bounds with 56 seconds left, giving Edison possession. Stell made a 12-foot jumper in the lane with 43 seconds left, giving Edison a 61-60 lead. His shot bounced three times on the rim before finally falling through the net.
But Elton Moore gave Saddleback the lead right back, 62-61, with 7 seconds left. Moore took advantage of a defensive breakdown, slipping past Edison defenders for an easy layup.
Edison then called timeout and set up Stell’s game-winner.