ONTARIO — There were just a few inches that separated the Renaissance Academy boys' basketball team from the CIF State Boys' Division V championship game.
The Wildcats looked to their standout guard Vince De Guzman to hit a deep, game-winning three-pointer, but his shot did not fall, as Village Christian got the one-point victory, 58-57, in the Division V Championships Southern California Regional Final at Colony High on the heels of a deep three from its star Bryan Alberts.
"It was a good run, [this game] could have gone either way," Renaissance Coach Sid Cooke said. "It was tough because the whole team had the flu this week. The guys were spent."
Both teams were deadlocked at 55 and neither had scored for more than two minutes when the fifth-seeded Crusaders (31-3) called timeout and drew up an inbound play that got the ball to Alberts about five feet behind the three-point line.
Renaissance didn't extend on Alberts, who hit nothing but net to put Village up, 58-55, with 38 seconds left.
"They set a double screen for me," said Alberts, who finished with 13 points. "As soon as it left my hand I knew it was in."
Cooke said his team just fell asleep.
"That was just awareness," Cooke said. "It's their star player and we left him wide open."
De Guzman (10 points) hit a reverse layup on the next trip down the floor to cut the lead to one, 58-57, with 18 seconds left and the Wildcats quickly committed two fouls to put Village at the line for a one-and-one with five seconds left.
The free throw was off, rebounded by Renaissance's Jessy Cantinol and outletted to De Guzman, who let up a three about 25 feet out, but the shot was just off to the right, ending the Wildcats' season.
"We wanted to push the ball, we talked about it before [Village] shot the free throw," Cooke said. "I felt he rushed the shot a little, he still had some time."
De Guzman thought he got a pretty good look, considering the circumstances.
"I liked the look I got," said De Guzman, who finished with 10 points. "I had to rush it and get it up a bit because they got a hand up, but I liked it. I should have made it."
The win provided some revenge for the Crusaders after second-seeded Renaissance (26-8) beat them handily, 60-44, in the second game of the season on Nov. 30.
"There definitely was some revenge," Alberts said. "Not only does it eel good to win in a big game like this, but to do so knowing this team beat us by 16 early this season feels great."
The second half was tightly contested and featured six ties, four in the final quarter, and three lead changes in the final eight minutes.
The Crusaders closed out the third quarter strong thanks to Marquis Salmon, who scored Village Christian's final seven points and finished with a team-high 19 points to bring his team within one, 48-47.
Village kept the momentum to start the final quarter and took a 51-49 lead on two free throws from Marsalis Johnson (13 points, six rebounds) before Renaissance tied it at 51 and 53 on a turn-around jumper from Cantinol, who finished with a game-high 22 points and six rebounds, and a reverse layup from Yendra Magloire, assisted by Cantinol.
The Wildcats retook a two-point lead, 55-53, on a two-handed layup from Gerrick Uneau (12 points, three blocks) on a pass from Troy Fontanilla.
Salmon tied it back up at 55 with a layup with 2:43 remaining.
Both defenses clamped down from there as the next bucket came from Alberts.