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Cooper Green, Sage Hill stun St. Margaret’s for first league title

The Sage Hill School boys’ basketball team had already seen the script earlier on Thursday night.

Before the boys took the court, the Sage Hill girls’ basketball team erased a 12-point deficit in the second half to come from behind and clinch a CIF Southern Section playoff berth.

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The encore proved to be just as dramatic, as the boys’ basketball team came back from a six-point deficit in the final 36 seconds of regulation and forced overtime.

Senior center Johnny King had 28 points, 26 rebounds and six blocked shots, as the host Lightning stunned rival St. Margaret’s 63-57 to take the Academy League crown.

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Sage Hill (18-10, 7-1 in league) claimed its first boys’ basketball league title in school history, but not before two clutch shots by sophomore guard Cooper Green in the final minute.

The Lightning won a couple of battles on the offensive glass before Green spotted up for a three-pointer that made it a 51-48 Tartans lead with 36 seconds remaining.

On defense, senior small forward Alex Desbans stole the inbounds pass, and Lightning coach Billy Conlon quickly called a timeout.

The Lightning came out looking for the game-tying three-pointer, but St. Margaret’s was switching on every pass that happened above the arc.

Finally, Green found daylight running to his left. He hoisted a three-pointer that was true, tying the score at 51-51 with two seconds left, and the packed gym exploded with deafening noise.

Nobody will ever forget the shot that Cooper Green hit [at the end of regulation]. What a special season for a special group of guys.


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“I was just trying to get an open look,” Green said. “I knew that we were down by three at the end, so I knew that we had to get a three up. It was contested, but I knew that I could get it off, so it was a good shot.”

The smile could not be wiped off Conlon’s face after his team defeated the Tartans (16-11, 6-2) for the league championship.

Sage Hill School defenders Darius ShayanSmith, left, and Jack Strohman, sandwich St. Margaret's Trey Pate, who turns the ball over in the Academy League championship game on Thursday.
Sage Hill School defenders Darius ShayanSmith, left, and Jack Strohman, sandwich St. Margaret's Trey Pate, who turns the ball over in the Academy League championship game on Thursday. (Don Leach / Staff Photographer)

“Nobody will ever forget the shot that Cooper Green hit [at the end of regulation],” Conlon said. “What a special season for a special group of guys.”

Green scored all of his 14 points after the first half, and he was serenaded with “MVP” cheers during his four free throws in overtime.

The student section emptied out onto the floor to celebrate with the team when the final buzzer sounded.

“Our school was founded in [2000], and this is our first one ever,” Green said. “It feels amazing, especially in front of the crowd here.”

Senior point guard Jack Strohman had 12 points, nine rebounds and four assists for the Lightning. Sophomore guard Mitchell Frye added six points and three assists.

To some extent, Thursday’s game was a matter of legacy for King, who said he had only beaten St. Margaret’s once in eight previous attempts in his career.

Sage Hill School's Johnny King (55) blocks a shot by St. Margaret's Trey Pate during the Academy League championship game on Thursday
Sage Hill School's Johnny King (55) blocks a shot by St. Margaret's Trey Pate during the Academy League championship game on Thursday (Don Leach / Staff Photographer)

“This is definitely the best moment that I have had here,” King said.

King’s 26 rebounds were one shy of the school record for a single game, a mark that was established by Chance Kuehnel in 2014.

“I missed a lot [of shots],” King said, “but I was able to get most of them back, thankfully.”

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