For more than two quarters of Thursday night’s East Bay Athletic League (EBAL) Semifinal, Dougherty Valley point guard Ryan Beasley fit every negative description his critics had assigned to him.
Too small. A volume shooter. Undisciplined. Out of control.
For the final quarter and change, he looked like one of the best basketball players on the planet.
Beasley scored 42 points to lead the Wildcats to an incredible 27-point comeback and an 86-83 win over the San Ramon Valley Wolves, with 24 of those points coming in the fourth quarter. He went 18-for-20 at the free throw line on the night.
“We’ve got special dudes,” head coach Mike Hansen said. “With those guys, you’re never out of a game.”
Dougherty Valley (24-3), ranked No. 1 in the region by both the Bay Area News Group and the San Francisco Chronicle, will host Granada on Saturday night for the EBAL Tournament Championship. It’ll be a matchup with plenty of appeal for local college fans; Beasley is committed to San Francisco, while Granada seven-footer Andrew McKeever is headed for Saint Mary’s.
It’s a matchup that looked incredibly unlikely for most of Thursday night. San Ramon Valley (23-6), playing for a third night in a row, jumped out to a 10-0 lead, shot 63.3% from the field in the first half to take a 50-31 halftime lead and led 60-33 with 5:56 left in the third quarter after Luke Isaak’s fastbreak layup.
Double-digit comebacks in high school are rare, especially against a team of SRV’s caliber. To rally back from down 27 is almost unheard of. But Beasley and Connor Sevilla combined to lead the Wildcats on a 47-13 run, combining for 43 of those 47 points, before the Wolves made one last inspired push to get within a point with 11.2 seconds remaining when Beasley fouled out.
But Sevilla made his last two free throws with 6.9 to go, and the Wolves’ last chance at a transition 3-pointer bounced off the rim. Somehow, Dougherty Valley administrators managed to prevent the students from rushing the court in celebration.
“We just had to make that push,” said Beasley, whose pair of free throws with 3:28 left gave the Wildcats their first lead of the night at 73-72. “We just had to get stops. Once we took pride on the defensive end, we knew our shots would fall. We’ve got a bunch of scorers on this team.”
Sevilla scored 20 of his 29 in the second half, including back-to-back 3-pointers to cap off a 10-0 run to officially announce the Wildcats’ comeback bid. His shot from the volleyball lines with 2:14 left in the third quarter cut the lead to 62-48 and ignited a crowd that had been lifeless just a few minutes earlier.
“That’s his spot,” Beasley said. “Once he gets going, the whole team gets going.”
Mason Thomas’ drive and basket at the buzzer gave the impression that the Wolves had survived the worst that Dougherty Valley had to offer and sent SRV into the fourth up 66-52, but Beasley went on an individual 13-1 run to bring the Wildcats within three.
That sequence included a pair of fouls that brought SRV guard Parker McClaughry’s night to an end with 5:47 to go. McClaughry, who hit a pair of threes in the 10-0 run to open the game and scored 14 points in all, was hit with both a common foul and a technical foul with his team leading 69-56. Beasley made all four free throws, then sank a 3-pointer to cut the lead to six.
“We didn’t always handle the pressure, and there were some calls that didn’t go our way, which is unfortunate,” Wolves head coach Brian Botteen said.
In all, Dougherty Valley shot 33 free throws to SRV’s 17, including 24 in the fourth quarter. Even before the Wolves had to intentionally foul inside the final minute to prolong the game, the Wildcats had attempted 14 for the period. McClaughry, Jack Moxley and Thomas all fouled out in the fourth quarter, further depleting a Wolves team that entered the night without 6-foot-7 forward Will Ambidge (ankle).
Beasley scored again on a drive with 5:22 left, then made a pair of free throws 16 seconds later to make it 70-67.
If anyone needed a sign that the basketball gods were on top-seeded Dougherty Valley’s side, Beasley hit a 3-pointer that bounced around the rim three times before rolling in with 4:24 remaining to cut the lead to 72-71. He drew a charge that doubled as Thomas’ fourth foul shortly after sinking the go-ahead free throws, then assisted on a Sevilla basket to put the Wildcats up 75-72.
When Thomas was forced to give his fifth foul and Beasley made two free throws to put the hosts up seven with 44.1 left, the game seemed finished, but SRV managed one last push.
“We’ve faced some very adverse moments but remained level-headed,” Botteen commented.
Seamus Deely hit a 3-pointer with 35.9 remaining, and after Dougherty missed a pair of free throws, Deely knocked down two to bring the Wolves to within two with 27.9 remaining.
Deely finished the night with 16 points, eight assists and seven rebounds.
Beasley made two more free throws to put his team up 82-78 with 27.9 left, but Sean McDonnell scored on a drive with 17.9 on the clock. Sevilla made two free throws with 15.8 remaining, but Beasley was called for his fifth foul on an Isaak 3-point attempt with 11.2 to go. Isaak made all three free throws; the sophomore finished with a team-high 22 points. Thomas, also a sophomore, scored 19.
Thomas sank a trio of threes in the second quarter, the last of which put the Wolves up 35-18, and SRV closed the first half on a 9-0 run on a Deely and-1, an Isaak and-1 and a Moxley 3-pointer. Moxley finished with seven points, all coming in the first half.
The Wolves had four players in double figures to Dougherty Valley’s two, but Beasley, Sevilla and Hansen all noted the role that reserves played in the comeback by helping to keep the stars fresh and put pressure on SRV ball handlers.
“We picked them up full court, ran around and trapped. We had to speed it up and make it as chaotic as we can,” Hansen said. “Aadi (Malali) tips balls, Chris (Fallgren) is an unsung hero and the freshman (Rodney Westmoreland) got a couple tips. They just changed the look.”
Seniors Jaden Dynes and Jordan Silva each spent the entire first half on the bench but were involved in making key defensive stops during the comeback.
“We had to leave it all on the floor,” Beasley said.
Blake Hudson, who transferred from St. Mary’s-Albany before the season, finished with eight points, six rebounds and five assists. His drive and putback in the third quarter accounted for the only four points that someone other than Beasley or Sevilla scored during the fateful 47-13 run.
Ethan Kassel can be reached at [email protected]