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Last-second free throws sink Panthers
PARADISE - Three seconds, two free throws, and a season hung on the brink for two teams.
After battling back from a 15-point second-quarter deficit, Maxwell High took a 58-57 lead on a pair of Isaias Martinez free throws with 29 seconds left.
Paradise Adventist called a timeout with 20 ticks remaining, and Coulson Williams was fouled with just three seconds on the clock and stepped to the line for a pair. He sank the first one and Maxwell called a timeout but it did not ice Williams, as he made the second shot and a Maxwell desperation shot at the buzzer fell short for a 59-58 loss in the second round of the Northern Section Division VI playoffs.
"We were right there," said Maxwell junior Blake Vierra, who finished with 11 points. "I told them (during the last timeout) 'Right here. We're family and we do it for each other.'"
Ninth-seeded Paradise Adventist (21-6) worked the ball inside consistently in the first half, but Zach Troughton scored eight points for the Panthers in the first quarter, which ended with the Cougars up just 21-17.
Unfortunately for Maxwell, Troughton also picked up some early fouls and spent the second quarter on the bench. His absence showed both offensively and defensively, as Paradise Adventist opened up a 34-19 lead in the second quarter, and outscored the Panthers 16-7.
"We had turnovers and Zach got in foul trouble early," explained Maxwell coach Forrest Bateman. "They just stood around too much."
Needing to stem the tide, the Panthers switched to a zone defense for the second half.
"Well we knew we were gonna have to step up on defense, our defense was very bad in the first half," Vierra said. "We knew we were going to have to come out and make them shoot outside shots and work together as a team."
Bateman remarked, "We stopped letting them shoot lay-ups. We had to do something different that they were a little more comfortable with."
The defensive switch did force the Cougars outside, but they responded with 3-pointers from Williams and Jonathon Pierson, and still led 51-42 heading into the fourth quarter.
An 10-4 run by the Panthers trimmed the deficit to just 55-52 with 2:00 left in the game, and Martinez's free throws gave Maxwell its first lead of the second half.
"This is a great group of kids. A break here or there and we'd be the ones moving on," said Bateman. "I was proud to be their coach."
Troughton led Maxwell with 16 points, followed by Eddie Rangel's 12 and Vierra's 11. George Barajas added nine and Martinez finished with eight.
Pierson led all scorers with 21, and the Cougars got 16 points from Williams and 12 by Ronald Cameron.
Maxwell finished the season 17-8.
CONTACT Craig Purcell at 824-1036 or firstname.lastname@example.org.