The best stretch of Jeff Benson's Montclair Prep basketball career almost ended in horrific fashion for the senior role player.
Benson scored 10 points in a two-minute stretch late in the fourth quarter that ultimately would send the Mounties to Sacramento with a 67-62 victory over San Diego Horizon Christian before 2,000 fans Saturday at Cal State Fullerton.
But after his last basket, a breakaway layup with 1 minute 19 seconds remaining, Benson was called for a technical foul for taunting, temporarily letting the Panthers back into the Division V Southern California Regional final.
"I thought I had been fouled," said Benson, who averages less than nine points a game. "The only thing I said was 'and one' and I got called for it."
With Montclair Prep leading, 64-58, when the technical was called, Horizon Christian's Jose Gijon made a free throw and Stacey Robinson, who scored 26 points, made a three-point basket, which cut the lead to 64-62.
But Akil Anderson made three of four free throws in the final minute to seal the victory. Top-seeded Montclair Prep (29-3) will play Oakland St. Elizabeth at the Arco Arena on Saturday for the state title.
Despite the technical foul, his teammates praised Benson, whose scoring run included a pair of three-pointers. He finished with 14 points.
"Jeff's been one of our better shooters all year," Co-Coach Howard Abrams said. "He was left open and we finally got it to the open guy."
Second-seeded Horizon Christian (26-6), which lost to Montclair Prep in the regional final last year, kept the ball away from 6-foot-4 forward Anwawn Jones.
Jones was held to 14 points, almost all coming on putbacks or free throws. He also had 13 rebounds.
The Panthers also slowed Anderson, who led Montclair Prep with 13 first-half points, but scored only four in the second half until his final free throws. He finished with 20 points and four assists.
Montclair Prep started fast, building a nine-point first-quarter lead. But when Robinson hit a three-pointer midway through the third quarter, Horizon Christian led, 37-36.
The Panthers stretched the lead to 46-40 as the Mounties struggled with turnovers, three-second violations and Scott Stark's fourth foul.
"I was nervous because this was a revenge game for them and they were doing what we expected them to," Anderson said.
Anderson and Jones were so nervous before the game, the seniors both threw up before tipoff.
"I think it was because we were seniors and this could have been our last game," Anderson said.
Now, they have one more left to play.