HAYWARD -- The Newark Memorial High boys basketball team had an epic battle with a determined Moreau Catholic squad on Wednesday night and nearly saw its 41-game Mission Valley Athletic League win streak come to an end.
The Cougars squandered a 14-point second half lead, but held on for a thrilling 65-64 win over the host Mariners in a game between the MVAL's top two teams in front of a standing-room only crowd.
Michael Pinkney made 1 of 2 free throws with 1.9 seconds remaining as the Cougars escaped with a hard-fought victory.
The Cougars (15-7, 9-0 MVAL) took control in the race for the league crown with the win, moving two games ahead of the second place Mariners with five games left to play.
"This was a great atmosphere and both teams really did an incredible job feeding off it," Newark coach Craig Ashmore said. "Our guys got into some foul trouble, but we had guys off the bench who did a great job for us."
Matthew Thomas had a phenomenal game for the Cougars, scoring 19 points and grabbing 17 rebounds. He also added six blocked shots.
For the Mariners, sophomore Armond Simmons scored 18 points, Demari Milstead had 17 points and Oscar Frayer added 12.
The Cougars took a 41-27 lead two minutes into the second half, but Moreau responded with a 19-6 run to cut Newark's lead to 47-46. Joey Frenchwood's 3-pointer extended Newark's advantage to 54-48 heading into the final quarter.
Milstead scored inside the paint before Brandon Lawrence followed with a layup for Moreau (16-5, 7-2) to tie the score at 64-64 with 58.6 seconds remaining.
With 43.4 seconds left, Lawrence was fouled after a Cougars turnover, but missed both free throws. Moreau came away with the ball once again but turned it over with an offensive foul, giving Newark the ball back.
Pinkney drove to the lane and was fouled. He made the first free throw before missing the second and Frayer's desperation half-court shot fell short.
Despite the loss, Mariners coach Frank Knight was pleased with his team's performance.
"We made some adjustments this time and our guys really stepped up and played with more intensity," he said. "Hopefully these guys will play with a chip on their shoulder knowing they could've pulled this out."