Center Josh Lien of third-ranked Sonora, mired in a shooting slump that has lasted a couple of weeks, stood at the free-throw line late in the fourth quarter Friday night with Coach Mike Murphy ready to bench him.
Unranked Troy was on the verge of an upset, leading by four points with 1 minute 38 seconds left. Lien had made just two of 11 shots from the field and Murphy had just about had enough.
When Lien missed the second end of a double bonus situation, Troy got the rebound and all Murphy could do was watch.
But Lien went on to score the final six points, including two free throws with four seconds left to lead the Raiders to a 51-48 victory at Troy and clinch Sonora’s fifth consecutive Freeway League title.
Lien’s efforts overshadowed a gutsy performance by Troy (15-9, 5-3), which got five three-pointers and 20 points each from Inzunza and junior forward Scott Blake.
Troy guard Jerry Inzunza launched a 60-foot shot, which bounced off the rim as the final buzzer sounded.
Lien led Sonora (21-3, 8-0) with 17 points and Jones had 15 and eight rebounds.
During a timeout prior to Lien’s free throws, Murphy challenged the center to take a leading role.
“I told him that he was a senior and he needed to step up,” Murphy said. “He struggled for 30 minutes for us tonight and I was going to take him out. He had a lot of good shots for us, but he just couldn’t make them.”
Lien said he knew he couldn’t play much worse.
“I had a terrible first half,” he said. “I thought coach was going to take me out, but when I went to the line I didn’t see anyone waiting to sub for me.”
Troy battled back from a nine-point deficit to take a 48-44 lead with 3:33 left.
Lien’s free throw cut the lead to three points and his rebound and basket with 1:07 remaining cut the lead to one. He then he scored off an assist from forward Ben Jones to give Sonora the lead for good, 49-48.
Troy got the ball back with 44 seconds left, ran the clock down to 16 seconds and called time out. Coach T.J. Hardeman set up a play for Inzunza, but Inzunza’s driving layup attempt from the right baseline rolled off the rim. Lien grabbed the rebound and was fouled, setting up his final free throws.
Sonora may have lost starting guard Bobby White, who was injured in the postgame celebration in which the Raiders piled on top of each other at midcourt. White, who was at the bottom, came up limping badly with an injured right knee.
In other Freeway League games:
Fullerton 52, La Habra 31--Michael Sailhamer had 16 points, six rebounds, five assists and three steals to lead Fullerton (11-12, 3-5).
Sunny Hills 50, Buena Park 49--Jason Maughan scored 17 points as host Sunny Hills (10-13, 4-4) held off a late charge by Buena Park (12-12, 3-5). The Coyotes outscored Sunny Hills in the fourth quarter, 19-11.