For the second time in less than a year, the De La Salle Spartans came out with a last-second win when they were hoping to get a stop to send a game to overtime.
Billy Haggerty’s steal set Arshawn Salkhi up for a go-ahead fastbreak layup with 2.6 seconds left in regulation, and the Spartans finished on an 8-0 run to beat the San Ramon Valley Wolves 59-55 in an East Bay Athletic League (EBAL) thriller before a packed house in Concord.
“You think you’ve gotta get a stop to go to overtime,” said head coach Marcus Schroeder. “Then all of a sudden, your team has the ball and you’re streaking down the court for an open layup.”
Last February, the Spartans beat Miramonte on a similar last-second layup in a North Coast Section (NCS) Open Division Semifinal. In that game, they outscored the Matadors 25-7 in the second half, and after Miramonte rushed a shot with 11 seconds left. Haggerty grabbed the rebound and made an outlet pass to Alec Blair, who found a streaking Javon Johnson for the winning basket.
This time, Haggerty forced a steal at the top of the arc and threw a lead pass for Salkhi, who picked it up at the free throw line and scored. The referees put 2.6 seconds back on the clock after granting SRV a timeout, but the Wolves’ attempt at a full-court inbound pass hit the ceiling. Haggerty made two free throws to seal the game.
“We executed down the stretch, and that’s what it’s about,” Schroeder said.
San Ramon Valley (16-4, 0-3 EBAL) held a 55-51 lead after Seamus Deely’s and-1 with 2:01 left, but Salkhi scored on a spinning drive to cut the lead to two with 1:35 to go. De La Salle (16-4, 3-1) got a stop, and though Blair failed to score on a drive, he tipped in a putback with 41.4 left to even the score (Evan Wells may have also gotten a hand on the ball, but Blair was credited with the two points).
The Wolves then ran the shot clock down, and Haggerty, who’s been known to make scrappy, gritty plays throughout his three years on the varsity roster, poked the ball free to set Salkhi up for the decisive basket.
“Once it was a two-point game, I was like, ‘We’re gonna win this,’” Blair said. “We stayed calm, had faith in each other and stayed confident.”
De La Salle held a 38-31 lead early in the third after a Haggerty putback, but failed to score over the next five minutes. Parker McClaughry’s 3-pointer with 50.9 seconds left in the quarter gave the Wolves a 41-40 advantage.
The lead changed hands seven times in the fourth quarter. Leo Ricketts, the hero in Monday's win over national No. 1 West Linn, hit a 3-pointer that put the Spartans up 45-43 with 6:42 left, but Will Ambidge’s drive gave SRV a 50-49 edge with 4:29 to go. Ambidge, a 6-foot-7 junior, scored again to put the Wolves in front with 3:23 to go.
Sophomore Luke Isaak led SRV with 21 points, including a 3-pointer to cut the DLS lead to 49-48 with 4:56 remaining. He scored four points in a bizarre sequence late in the first half when he hit a 3-pointer and drew a foul, but was directed to shoot a 1-and-1 instead of just a single free throw.
Schroeder was informed that the foul occurred well after the shot, a ruling that held up despite multiple De La Salle complaints. Isaak made the first free throw, and Seamus Deely grabbed an offensive rebound and drew a foul after he missed the second. Deely then sank both free throws to get the Wolves within a point, though Blair scored at the other end to close the half.
Blair led all players with 23 points and 11 rebounds.
“We take it for granted a little bit,” Schroeder said of the 6-foot-6 sophomore. “We have him guard their best player, bring the ball up the court, score, playmake, all of that.”
Salkhi scored just two points on Monday and had only two entering the fourth quarter on Wednesday night, but he scored six in the final four minutes. His pull-up jumper from the free throw line late in the shot clock gave his team a 51-50 lead with 3:53 left.
“We weren’t worried at all,” the junior said.
Haggerty and Wells scored 12 points apiece, while McClaughry finished with 10. Deely added nine points and five assists for the Wolves, who have dropped their first three games in a loaded league. Of SRV’s four losses this season, none have been by more than six points, and neither team led by more than seven during Wednesday’s game.
The Wolves host Amador Valley (11-8, 1-2) on Friday. De La Salle will host Dublin (14-6, 3-0). The Gaels are one of two teams, along with Dougherty Valley (18-1, 3-0), to win each of their first three EBAL games.
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