LOS ANGELES — With the game on the line, View Park Prep’s defense didn’t give an inch, but in the end, thanks to a clutch three-point shot by Josh Thomas, that didn’t matter.
The senior guard rendered the Knights’ defensive pressure moot and lifted the Renaissance Academy basketball team to a 50-46 win over View Park in the second round of the CIF Division V State Championships at Crenshaw High with a big-time basket that gave the Wildcats a four-point cushion with just seven seconds left to play.
“When they dropped back into that 2-3, I got confused — that’s not what we thought they were gonna do,” Thomas said. “I’m not used to having the ball in my hands in the last seconds, but I just shot it. If I can I see the basket, I can hit it.”
Time after time in the final, critical possessions of the game, the Knights (22-13) denied the Wildcats (25-3) the play they were looking for — a move to the basket or a pass to the interior.
“If we were just patient, it would’ve worked,” Wildcats Coach Sid Cooke said. “They couldn’t stop us [from going inside]. We gotta work on that.”
Hurried, contested shots and long-range looks gone awry resulted for the Wildcats, as they watched their modest lead dwindle to one point within the last two minutes.
“We took a lot of shots we shouldn’t have taken,” Cooke said.
Clinging to a 47-46 lead, the Wildcats recovered possession on a defensive rebound by DeAndre Daniels with 46 seconds left.
As it had done on the Wildcats’ previous possessions, View Park kept the ball confined to the perimeter.
With about five seconds left on the shot clock, Thomas stepped back about two feet behind the top of the arc and drilled the most important of his 10 points.
The fourth quarter was the only one in which the Wildcats were able to deny the Knights free reign in the paint.
View Park penetrated at will for the better part of three quarters and thrived on second-chance opportunities.
Renaissance limited View Park to just two points in the paint and two offensive rebounds in the fourth.
Anthony Stover led the Wildcats defense with a game-high eight blocks, while also recording team-highs of 14 points and 14 rebounds.
Renaissance’s offense hit its own stagnant periods, such as a span of four-plus minutes without a field goal in the second quarter. By that time, a 7-0 run that had allowed the Wildcats to take a 20-13 lead by the end of the first, was a distant memory, as the Knights tied the game at 26 by halftime.
“We just weren’t alert, I don’t think we played our best,” said Cooke, who also got 14 points and four rebounds from Justin Cook. “But we beat a team that beat us last year.”
In last season’s Southern California Regional Semifinal, Renaissance lost at Crenshaw to View Park.
The game came to be after the Wildcats won their first-ever state playoff contest by beating Reedley Immanuel Christian.
Immanuel Christian defeated Joel John Scholastic, 76-71, on Tuesday night. Thus, the Wildcats have another rematch on their hands Thursday. Renaissance, the No. 2 seed, will host the contest at a site and time to be determined.