Jade' Smith made two free throws with 0.2 seconds left to lift the St. Joseph Notre Dame boys basketball team to a 49-48 win over Branson-Ross on March 8 in a controversial finish to the North Coast Section Division V title game at Albany High School.
Smith was fouled by John Broderick as he was trying to get off a shot at the buzzer. Smith went down in pain but it turned out to be a cramp in his left leg.
The clock originally expired. Then, the officials huddled for nearly a minute, including the fourth official who sits at the scorer's table. Two-tenths of a second was put back on the clock. After Smith made his two shots, Branson inbounded the ball but didn't have enough time to get off a shot.
"I'm just pretty excited right now," Smith said. "I don't know what I'm thinking right now."
He added that they were "just regular free throws."
With the victory, St. Joseph Notre Dame received the No. 2 seed for the CIF Northern regional Division V playoffs. The Pilots received a first-round bye and will host either No. 7 Pinewood or No. 10 Lake Forest Christian on March 15. Branson (25-6) is the No. 4 seed and will play Liberty Christian of Redding, also on March 15.
Naturally, Branson's players and coaches didn't agree with the final call. Initially, they were celebrating on the court before they realized that a foul had been called.
"I did not see a foul," Branson coach Bret Tovani said. "I heard the horn before I heard anything else. That's all I heard. It's the other end of the court. It's hard for me to see anything at that point. But I didn't see a foul. I saw a missed shot, I saw a scramble down there, the horn."
It was a tough end to a terrific high school game. St. Joseph (27-5) led most of the way, building a 10-point lead in the fourth quarter. But the Bulls fought back, going ahead when Henry Feinberg buried a 3-pointer with 24 seconds left. Pilots coach Don Lippi then used a timeout to set up the final sequence.
Marcus Harris got a 3-pointer off from the right corner and the rebound came back along the right baseline. There, Smith grabbed it and in traffic tried to get a desperation shot off. Contact ensued.
Broderick led all scorers with 18 points, including 13 in the second half to help Branson rally. Temidayo Yussuf had 13 points, nine rebounds and four assists to lead St. Joseph. Lost in the controversy of the ending was a fantastic assist by Yussuf to end the third quarter.
With the clock about to run out, Yussuf drove the lane. Suddenly, he caught sight of Harris open in the corner and instead of finishing his drive, he passed to his teammate. Harris nailed the 3-pointer at the buzzer to give the Pilots a 43-36 lead.
Miramonte 94, Encinal 42: The Jets simply could not keep up with the Matadors in the NCS Division III girls basketball championship game March 8 at Saint Mary's College.
Miramonte bolted out to a 20-6 lead over Encinal in the first five minutes and was ahead 58-24 at halftime.
Destiny Kelly paced No. 2 Encinal (20-8), which had only nine players available for the game, with 12 points. It was the first time in school history that the Encinal girls basketball team had reached an NCS championship game, said coach Ron Caldwell.
Miramonte senior Breanna Alford led all scorers with 21 points, Eleven players scored for Miramonte (28-1), and five scored in double figures, including Sabrina Ionescu (13 points), Mariah Seals (11 points), Megan Reid (10 points) and Uriah Howard (10 points). It was the Miramonte girls basketball team's first NCS title since 2008.
Despite the loss, Encinal received the No. 3. seed and a first round bye for the CIF Northern regional Division III playoffs. The Jets will host either Vanden-Fairfield or San Marin-Novato in the second round on March 15.
-- Phil Jensen