ANAHEIM — Bonnie Samuelson sat at the far end of the Edison High bench trying, it appeared, to fathom what had just taken place Tuesday night at Anaheim Arena.
The senior sat stunned among her teammates moments after the completion of the CIF Southern Section Division I-A girls' basketball championship game that pitted No. 1 Edison against No. 2 Troy, looking at the scoreboard, then straight ahead as if in total disbelief. She broke into a wide, almost incredulous smile, then took another look at the scoreboard.
Perhaps soaking up the moment.
Probably checking to see if it all was real.
"It happened so fast, that I wasn't sure if it was real," she said. "I really can't believe it."
In the waning moments of the game, Edison trailed Troy by a single point and the underdog Warriors held possession with 5.9 seconds to play. On Troy's inbounds pass under the Edison basket, Samuelson guarded the Warriors' Shelby Dougherty, using her wing span to prevent the 5-foot-9 junior guard from inbounding the ball.
Dougherty's attempt didn't travel far. That's because Samuelson used every inch of her 6-3 frame to block Dougherty's vision, got a piece of the inbounds pass, grabbed the ball in mid-air, turned and shot from about eight feet out from the left side with two seconds left.
Her shot hit nothing but net.
Samuelson looked and pointed toward the delirious Edison cheer squad stationed behind the Edison basket, as if asking, "Did you see that?" The clock ticked away, and the Chargers somehow, some way, pulled out a 45-44 victory to capture the program's first CIF title since 1987 and second overall.
"I thought that I could get a tip on the ball and then suddenly, it was in my hands," said Samuelson who led all scorers with 19 points. "During timeout, coach [Dan Wiley] told us deny, deny, deny on that inbounds pass and if they got it in, to foul right away. I was able to get the tip and somehow came up with the ball. I didn't know how much time was left and I thought the game was over. I just turned and shot.
"I still can't even believe it happened. It's surreal."
It appeared that Troy (27-4) might pull off the win when sophomore guard Briana Roberson fed a wide-open Alecia Dimas for an easy layup that gave the Warriors a 44-42 lead with 1:11 remaining in the game. Edison, which improved to 29-3, drew to within 44-43 when junior wing Rilee Horton hit the second of two free throw attempts with 48 seconds left.
The Chargers got the ball back after senior guard Christina Marquette rebounded a missed jumper from inside the key by Troy reserve guard Ester Du. The Chargers came quickly up court with 12 seconds left and a hurried three-point shot attempt by Samuelson hit the front of the rim. Troy's Maddy Barrett grabbed the rebound and was fouled by Karlie Samuelson with 5.9 seconds left.
It was just the fifth team foul of the half on the Chargers and Troy took possession under the Edison basket. The teams went to a timeout, and Bonnie Samuelson returned to make one final, enormously big play.
"I'm glad we had that final chance because that shot that I missed before was a pretty fast shot," Bonnie Samuelson said. "It looked like [the Warriors] were going to win it after they got that rebound."
Dan Wiley, who took Edison to a Southern Section title in just his third year, urged his team for a defensive stop in the final seconds during the timeout.
"I told them not to give up the deep pass," he said. "We put two girls up top to prevent the deep pass and Bonnie did a tremendous job guarding that inbounds play. She's had such a great career. Se deserves an ending like that.
"I feel bad for them (Troy). It's a tough way for them to lose. But, only one team can come out the winner, and I'm glad it was us. It's a great lesson for the girls to never give up not only in a game, but in life."
The biggest lead of the game was four points and it came with 1:55 to play in the first half when Roberson scored on a quick drive to the basket to put the Warriors up, 22-18. Roberson led Troy with 12 points,
Troy took a 5-0 lead in the game's first minute but the teams were tied, 10-10, after one quarter and behind a basket by Karlie Samuelson (15 points) and two free throws by Bonnie Samuelson, Edison wiped out Troy's four-point lead and pulled into a 22-22 halftime tie.
Bonnie Samuelson was a perfect 12 for 12 from the foul line in the first half to keep Edison close.
The Chargers appeared to take some momentum into the fourth quarter after Marquette sank a three-point shot from the deep left corner before the third quarter clock expired. Bonnie Samuelson sent a quick pass to Marquette, who bobbled the ball to the floor but calmly retrieved it and swished her shot from the arc.
Marquette's shot put Edison in front, 38-37, heading into the final eight minutes.
The Chargers led by three points (40-37) two minutes into the fourth quarter after Bonnie Samuelson hit a free throw. They lead again by three (42-39) after Karlie Samuelson dropped two free throws midway through the quarter. From there, it was a frantic finish.
Bonnie Samuelson has hit some big shots, had some big games, throughout her stellar Edison career. Nothing, however, can top her final two points of the ballgame.
"This is one of the best moments in my entire life," she said, taking another look around the arena, grasping, finally, that she did, indeed, hit the game-winning shot.