By Miguel A. Melendez, Staff Writer
ANAHEIM – La Caada High School’s Matt Faber stood watch under the basket as Price’s Askia Booker released the ball from behind the 3-point line with 11 seconds left in the game.
The ball never hit the rim, instead landing in Faber’s hands. He quarterbacked an end-of-the-court pass to Dario CiVon, who dribbled to the basket, turned and waited for the final seconds to tick off the clock.
What seemingly felt like motion-still seconds finally became a reality when CiVon launched the ball high into the air as the buzzer sounded, as the Spartans grabbed a 50-47 upset win over top-seeded Price of Los Angeles in the CIF-Southern Section Division 3AA championship game Thursday night at the Anaheim Convention Center.
“That moment was just like a dream,” said Faber, who finished with 14 points on 6-of-12 shooting to go with 10 rebounds. “I didn’t believe we won until I saw the seconds tick off. I saw Dario and chucked it. When (the clock) went off, I just went crazy.”
CiVon said his mind went back to last year’s NBA Finals watching Kobe Bryant celebrate his fifth title.
“I was looking at the clock and it felt (like) slow motion,” he said. “It was a surreal moment to be that open, nobody around, the game about to end.”
La Caada’s long-distance assault in the first quarter fueled its confidence, as the Spartans (28-3) knocked down five 3-pointers to race to a 21-9 lead at the end of the first quarter.
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“I think we surprised them a little bit with a couple of the guys who shot them,” La Caada coach Tom Hofman said. “There’s no question that was a great start for us. We were relaxed. We told them getting here is the hard part, this is the fun part.”
The confidence carried into the fourth quarter, when the third-seeded Spartans withstood Price’s frantic effort that saw La Caada’s 14-point lead in the third quarter vanish in the final two minutes after the Knights (22-7) tied it 46-46 with 1:59 left in the game.
Hofman, in his 25th season at the helm, didn’t flinch. After all, these Spartans overcame pressure moments in these playoffs with a double- overtime win in the quarterfinals and an overtime win in the semifinals.
“They seem to really excel in the last two minutes of these close games,” Hofman said.
And the Spartans did.
Price missed a jumper and a putback with 17 seconds left. A scuffle ensued and CiVon, who finished with 13 points, came up with the loose rebound before being fouled with 12.6 seconds left. He calmly converted both free throws to ice the game, giving La Caada its first boys basketball championship since beating San Dimas in 1992.
Mike McGlashan, who finished with 14 points and was showred with a chorus of “M-V-P” chants from the boisterous pro-Spartans crowd, will lead a resurgent La Caada team into next week’s CIF State playoffs. Brackets are announced Sunday.
That the Spartans held off a Price team that’s ranked 14th in the state and boasts a slew of Division I-bound players speaks volumes.
Price senior Norvel Pelle, a 6-foot-10 forward ranked No. 14 at his position by ESPN, was held to four points, all free throws. The St. John’s-bound Pelle struggled, to say the least, going 0 for 5 from the field.
“They wouldn’t let him around the basket,” Price coach Michael Lynch said.
“They were pretty physical,” Booker said. “Always sending a defender on the weakside. It was one of the toughest teams (we’ve played) for sure. I was pretty frustrated.”
La Caada 50
L.A. Price 47
La Caada 21 7 11 11 — 50
L.A. Price 9 14 12 12 — 47
La Caada: Mike McGlashan 14, Matt Faber 14, Dario CiVon 13, Sean Mintie 6, Vaughnt Yetenekian 3.
L.A. Price: Chase Murray 17, Skylar Spencer 8, Kenny Green 8, Askia Booker 6, Jaquan Green 4, Norvel Pelle 4.
Records: La Caada 28-3; L.A. Price 22-7.