It was a play designed to get the ball to hot-shooting forward Scott McCorkle for a three-point shot that would tie the score and send the game into overtime.
It would have capped a furious fourth-quarter rally in which Capistrano Valley had overcome a 16-point deficit against the defending state champion, Manual Arts.
But McCorkle never got the opportunity to try that shot. Teammate Nick Kost threw the ball away with 19 seconds remaining before the Cougars could get past midcourt and Manual Arts hung on for a 69-63 victory in the first round of the Southern California Regional Division I playoffs Tuesday night in front of 2,000 at Saddleback College.
“We had the momentum, but we didn’t take care of the ball,” said Mark Thornton, Capistrano Valley coach. “Throwing the ball away was the killer.”
Manual Arts (25-1) made 16 free throws in the final quarter, including a pair by guard Marcel Capers with 6 seconds remaining, to move into the second round on Thursday night at Freemont.
Manual Arts suffered its only loss of the season, 85-72, to Crenshaw in the City 4-A division championship game last Friday. But the Toilers rebounded with a fine defensive effort and some excellent outside shooting that enabled them to snap Capistrano Valley’s 15-game winning streak.
Capistrano Valley (24-5) appeared to be hopelessly behind heading into the final quarter. The Cougars had managed to score only 13 points in the second and third quarters and their best player, McCorkle, was in a shooting slump.
McCorkle had gained two quick fouls in the first quarter and played only 1:34 of the first half. He struggled to find his shooting touch when he returned in the third quarter, hitting only two of eight field goal attempts.
“I thought he (Thornton) might bring him back in the second quarter,” said Randolph Simpson, Manual Arts coach. “When he finally got back in, it took him a while to get going because he sat so long.”
But once McCorkle got into a groove, Capistrano Valley rallied. The talented junior hit three-pointers, drove for three-point plays and swished jump shots off screens. He sank six consecutive shots, including a follow with 3:45 remaining that moved the Cougars within three points, 59-56.
“The guy shoots off the screen better than anybody I’ve ever seen,” Simpson said. “I thought we were in trouble.”
Capistrano Valley moved closer, 62-60, when guard Bill Mazurie scored his 31st point on a follow shot, but Capers answered with a driving layup and a pair of free throws to move Manual Arts comfortably ahead, 66-60.
But Capistrano Valley guard Chris Kostoff made a three-point shot with 36 seconds remaining to cut Manual Arts’ lead to 66-63, and when the Toilers were guilty of a turnover 7 seconds later, Thornton called a timeout to set up what he hoped would be a game-tying shot.
“We were down, but I hadn’t given up because we’re pretty good shooters,” Thornton said. “But we never got a chance to take that shot.”
Simpson knows all about being down. Manual Arts had been ranked No. 1 in the state all season when it all fell apart against Crenshaw.
“It was a big letdown, and sometimes it’s hard to pick yourself up again when you have a big letdown,” Simpson said. “This game will help us. The kids want to redeem themselves and get another shot at Crenshaw.”