A little more than a minute had elapsed in what would prove to be a pivotal fourth quarter at El Camino Real High on Wednesday when a foul-up by the scoreboard operator allowed the game clock to run when the ball was dead.
Precious seconds ticked away before anyone noticed and a good-natured exchange followed between Taft Coach Jim Woodard and El Camino Real Coach Mike McNulty about how much time should have been placed back on the clock.
“Make it 6:55,” said Woodard, whose team trailed at the time.
“Make it 2:55,” countered McNulty with a grin.
The fast-paced quips were prologue to a slam-bang finish as Taft’s Cornell Hill scored eight unanswered points over the final 1 minute 10 seconds to lead the Toreadors to a 63-62 Northwest Valley Conference victory.
Hill, who finished with a team-high 16 points, scored the game-winner at the buzzer after a miss by teammate Eric Dafney, whose shot from the left corner nicked the edge of the backboard with two seconds left. Hill corralled the rebound and tossed in a midair follow shot as time elapsed.
“I was looking for the dish-off,” said Hill, who has long-jumped 23 feet 9 inches. “I was in the paint and there was nobody on me. Eric took the shot from behind the backboard, and I was just hanging out.”
Hill hung a painful loss on the Conquistadores, who led by as many as nine points in the second half. “We were just plain lucky,” Woodard said. “They outplayed us, they outcoached us. They only did one thing wrong.”
But El Camino Real (7-5, 0-2 in league play) did it wrong repeatedly--as in botching key free throws, repeatedly.
El Camino Real took a 62-55 lead with 1:45 left when Clyde Price (16 points) scored on a layup out of a spread offense. Hill scored inside, however, and after a Conquistadore turnover, scored after rebounding his miss to bring Taft within 62-59 with 41 seconds left.
Taft (10-4, 2-0) fouled Markee Brown on the inbounds pass and the sophomore forward missed the front end of the one-and-one. Yet the rebound somehow made its way into the hands of El Camino Real’s Chris Teich, and Taft again fouled to stop the clock.
However, Sam Sarpong, a sophomore point guard who finished with a game-high 20 points, missed the front end of a one-and-one with 30 seconds remaining. After Dafney (13 points) threw up an airball from three-point range, Hill scored on a follow basket to pare the lead to 62-61.
And because it was working . . . Taft fouled Adam Kodish with nine seconds remaining. Kodish, in keeping with the trend, missed and Casey Sheahan rebounded. Sheahan (13 points) sped down the left sideline and passed to Dafney, setting up Hill’s decisive basket.