Top-ranked Notre Dame High was on the brink of defeat against La Canada on Saturday night in the championship game of the La Salle/Temple City boys’ basketball tournament.
Trailing by one point with 14 seconds left, the Knights asked Cody Pearson to be the hero. Pearson responded by making a short turnaround jumper for his 30th point, securing a 68-67 victory.
“That’s the shot I practice thousands and thousands of times,” said Pearson, the tournament most valuable player.
La Canada (11-3), with only one senior in its starting lineup, gave the Knights (12-1) all they could handle by running their passing game offense to near-perfection.
Sophomore point guard Billy Hofman had nine assists. Junior Mark Moore scored five layups in the fourth quarter, mostly off screens.
“They’re a great team,” Pearson said. “Screens were coming from everywhere.”
The final 16 minutes were a stunning display of high school basketball for December. It was playoff caliber, with the score tied five times, 11 lead changes and neither team leading by more than four points.
La Canada took a 67-64 advantage with 1:22 left on Moore’s layup. Then Notre Dame started relying on the 6-foot-4 Pearson. He scored on a 15-foot jumper with 1:06 left.
When La Canada missed a shot, it gave Notre Dame the ball with 30 seconds left. The Knights isolated Pearson in the low post and he made his game-winning move.
La Canada had one final chance, but Hofman missed a jumper from the free-throw line as the buzzer sounded.
Robbie Neyland scored 21 points for La Canada, including 13 consecutive points after the Spartans had fallen behind, 19-5, at the outset. Moore had 17 points.
“I think we showed a lot of toughness against a great team,” Notre Dame Coach Rob DiMuro said.
Michael Luderer missed 10 shots but finished with 19 points for Notre Dame.
Ruben Sanchez contributed consecutive fourth-quarter baskets.
Pearson scored four baskets in the final four minutes.
“Pearson took over the game with some great one-on-one moves,” La Canada Coach Tom Hofman said.