Brother, that was close!
All Jason Collins, Jarron Collins and the rest of the Harvard-Westlake High basketball team could envision Saturday at the Pond was last year's season-ending one-point loss to Artesia at the same venue.
However, a missed shot at the regulation buzzer by San Diego University forward Luke Walton had Harvard thinking forward again. And in overtime, the Wolverines hardly looked back.
Harvard dominated the extra period to defeat University, 58-47, in the Division III Southern California Regional. Harvard (29-2), which plays Sacramento Grant (31-2) for the state title next Saturday in Sacramento, almost fell for the second consecutive season in the regional final.
Fortunately for the Wolverines, the same can be said of Walton's soft, driving layup with less than two seconds to play in regulation and the score tied, 45-45. Walton's offering rolled off the rim as time expired, denying University (27-3) a chance to shock the Wolverines.
Such a shock would have been difficult to withstand.
"I really would have been upset if we had lost this game," said senior forward Alex Gelbard, who scored four of his seven points in overtime. "This is it for me, as far as high school basketball goes. I definitely didn't want to see it slip away like last year."
The seesaw game was closer than the outcome.
Luke and Nate Walton, sons of former UCLA and NBA great Bill Walton, countered Harvard's Collins mix by piloting a precision-passing offense.
Luke Walton, a sophomore, scored 10 points. Nate, a senior who will attend Princeton, scored nine. Guard Matt Blakely led the Dons with 15 points.
University led, 12-9, after one quarter, trailed, 25-23, at halftime, and led again, 36-32, after three quarters.
With 47 seconds to play in regulation, a free throw by Blakely gave University a 45-43 lead. But Jason Collins, who scored a game-high 20 points, evened the score on an inside basket with 32 seconds remaining.
From there, the Dons moved the ball until Walton was ready to head for the hoop.
"Too close," Harvard Coach Greg Hilliard said. "As a coach, I think all of those are going in and all of ours are not going in."
Jason Collins, battling an army of defenders, provided one inside basket in overtime. Jarron Collins, who had 19 points and a team-high 12 rebounds, scored three in the overtime.
It was Harvard's most difficult victory of the season.
"They really believed they could win," Gelbard said. "They weren't intimidated by our size or our record or our name."
Or the Collins twins, who gave the Waltons high marks.
"Their fundamentals are excellent," Jarron Collins said. "[Nate Walton] is a great post player."
In the end, Nate Walton was without his brother. Luke Walton was whistled for charging and his fifth foul during the opening possession of the fourth quarter.
From there, Gelbard and Blakely traded baskets before Harvard closed with a 11-0 run that included a breakaway two-handed dunk by Jarron Collins.