By Steve Ramirez
AZUZA — There might be a time when the Damien High School boys basketball team can look back and reflect on the positives of pushing one of the top teams in Southern California to the brink.
But not today.
The Spartans, instead, can only think of what might have been after Clayton White missed a tying 3-pointer with eight seconds left before Damien dropped a 56-51 decision to Mission Viejo in the Southern California Shootout at Azusa Pacifc University.
The Diablos, ranked No. 1 CIF-Southern Section Division 2AA, got 16 points from Michael Cramer, who clinched it with two free throws with three seconds left, and 14 from Isaac Neilson to improve to 22-0. They are also ranked No. 3 in Orange County.
Damien, getting 25 points from Chris Reyes and 10 from Gian Demano, slipped to 18-2. It’s also the second consecutive year that the Spartans nearly upset a high-ranked team, losing in overtime to Etiwanda.
“Not now. Maybe later, if we learn from this, than it will be a successful experience,” said Damien coach Matt Dunn, whose Spartans are ranked No. 4 in Division 3-A. “Last year, we lost to Etiwanda and we learned from it and got better. If we did that … but to be honest, we’re kind of past the point where we can lose and it’s OK.
“We didn’t play our best. We didn’t find a way to win. You have to give (Mission Viejo) all the credit in the world. They’re good. They made all the big plays.”
But Damien, which was held to just two field goals in the first quarter, made some of its own. The Spartans, getting back-to-back baskets from J.J. Pavia and Demano, rallied back from a 31-22 deficit at the start of the second half to take a 44-43 lead early in
the fourth quarter. Then after 3-pointers by Cramer and Brandon Henson gave Mission Viejo a 52-46 lead, the Spartans made one more push.
Reyes converted a 3-point play at 1:22 to cut it to 52-49 and White scored from the inside to make it 54-51 with 14.2 seconds left. The Spartans then caught a break when the ensuing in-bounds pass was deflected off the Diablos’ James Cramer with 11 seconds left.
But White’s 3-point chance was short, with Michael Cramer grabbing the ball following a rebound battle before making two free throws to clinch it.
“We knew we could come out and beat these guys,” Reyes said. “It’s a tough loss.”
La Canada 60, Los Osos 36
Dario CiVon scored a game-high 20 points and Conner Boyd had 14 for the Spartans, who improved to 18-2. Michael McGlashan had 12.
Maranatha 57, Walnut 39
Josh Chamberlain scored 24 points and Jeremy Major had 16 and the Minutemen (16-5) were too strong for the Mustangs (11-8).
Bryan Gholar had 15 points to lead Walnut.
Righetti 74, Rowland 65
Van Holloway had 21 points and the Warriors (12-6) overcame an early-second half deficit to beat the Raiders (13-9).
Sharif Watson had a game-high 27 points and Joseph Dionisio had 17 to lead Rowland, which used a 15-10 blitz for a 43-41 lead early in the third quater.
Flintridge Prep 103, Covina 54
Kenyatta Smith scored 23 points and Kory Hamane had 21 and the Rebels (14-4) rolled to an easy victory.
Edgardo Campos had 14 for the Colts (12-9).
Girls: Bishop Amat 57, Bonita 55
Corona del Mar 80, Upland 67
La Canada 60, Los Osos 36
Etiwanda 66 vs. Colony 62
Glendora (15-4) vs. Baldwin Park (14-4), 9 p.m.
The inaugural California Elite Showcase hosted by La Verne Lutheran. Saturday’s Schedule at the University of La Verne.
Diamond Ranch High School vs Ayala, 2 p.m.
Eisenhower High vs Salesian, 3:30 p.m.
San Diego Hoover vs. Corona Roosevelt, 5 p.m.
La Verne Lutheran vs. Price, 6:30 p.m.
San Diego Lincoln High vs Sacramento High, 8 p.m.