Center Rick Swanwick carried Trabuco Hills High School through a banner season that ended Saturday with the State Division III boys’ championship basketball game in the Oakland Coliseum Arena.
But with the game and a state title on the line, the 6-foot-10, 220-pound senior finally collapsed under the weight and ended up lying on the floor after the final buzzer.
Swanwick had missed one of two free throws with two seconds remaining in Central Valley’s 62-61 upset victory that gave the school--located 10 miles north of Redding--its first state title.
Swanwick scored all 25 of Trabuco Hills’ points in the second half, but he also will be remembered for missing the free throw that would have sent the game into overtime. He finished with 33 points and 16 rebounds.
“I don’t care about the points, I just wanted to win,” he said. “When I made the first one, I was praying I would make the second one, and I missed. I relaxed a little after the first one, but not much.”
Swanwick was up-tight at the foul line most of the game, making seven of 16 free throws. He missed the front ends of two one-and-one attempts in the final 1:17, but his coach, Rainer Wulf, wouldn’t blame the loss on the big guy.
“People look at these games and look at the end and figure that’s how we lost,” Wulf said. “This game wasn’t lost in the last two seconds. We lost when we turned the ball over and missed shots that we had made all season.”
Trabuco Hills (25-7) committed 13 turnovers and made 24 of 53 field-goal attempts, but the latter statistic is deceiving because Swanwick was 13 of 20 from the field and his supporting cast was 11 of 33. Trabuco’s players, other than Swanwick, took only four shots from the foul line, making two of them.
What’s more, Trabuco Hills made only four of 12 three-point shots and didn’t connect on a three-pointer in the second half. Guard Randy Kriech (16 points) was the only other effective scorer for the Mustangs.
Still, Trabuco Hills had the lead, 60-58, with 2:40 remaining after Swanwick had scored following his missed free throw. The Mustangs had rallied from a 57-50 deficit early in the fourth quarter, and it appeared another comeback similar to the one that carried them to a 60-57 victory over Morningside in the Southern California Regional championship was in the making.
Central Valley (24-5) tied the score, 60-60, with 2:19 remaining when guard Chris Friebel drove the lane for a short jump shot. The teams went scoreless for a little more than two minutes before forward Ron Golden made two free throws with 15 seconds remaining to push the Falcons ahead, 62-60.
Trabuco Hills, however, wasn’t finished. Kriech missed a 16-foot jumper with eight seconds remaining, but Swanwick grabbed the rebound, whirled and fired a short shot that just missed with two seconds remaining.
Swanwick was fouled on the play, and Central Valley called a timeout to give him some time to think about his two free throws. Swanwick swished his first attempt and felt good about his second shot.
“I thought it was going in,” he said.
Instead, the ball hit the heel of the rim and caromed out of bounds to give Central Valley, an at-large entry into the Northern California Regionals, the title.
Central Valley actually beat Trabuco Hills at its own game--the three-point shot. The Falcons made six of 11 attempts from beyond the 19-foot 9-inch line, including two by guard Pete Roach in the third quarter when they outscored Trabuco Hills, 19-13.
Aaron Matthews, a 6-4 center, provided most of the offense for Central Valley in the first half, scoring 18 of his 20 points. Friebel added 12 points, 9 of them coming on three-point shots.
Afterward, Wulf fought hard to hold back the tears as he met with reporters outside Trabuco Hills’ locker room.
“This was the toughest loss I’ve ever been associated with,” he said. “When you consider the blood and sweat these guys gave, and then to lose the state championship by one point, that’s pretty tough to take.”