By Aram Tolegian, Staff Writer
It seemed only fitting that a chaotic year atop the Mission Valley League boys basketball standings would end dramatically. That’s exactly what happened Friday night, thanks to Gabrielino High School’s Ryan Lam. Lam’s 3-pointer as time expired capped a stirring rally, and the Eagles posted a 52-50 victory over host Arroyo and clinched a share of the league championship with Mountain View.
The Eagles hit four 3-pointers in the final 1:01, two by Lam, including one that banked in, but Lam’s second 3, a buzzer-beater on the run as time ran out, hit nothing but net.
Arroyo broke a tie with 4.8 seconds left on a free throw by Sam Aholoka. His second free throw attempt, though, missed, and Lam got the rebound and quickly made his way upcourt before stopping near the top of the key and firing the winning shot.
“I got the rebound, I saw there were four seconds and I couldn’t make the pass,” Lam said, “so I just shot it up. I got lucky. Somebody hit me in the face, so I didn’t see it (go in).
“It was just our desire to win. We had it in us.”
Gabrielino improved to 17-8 overall and 8-2 in league, but because both losses came to Mountain View, the Vikings will enter next week’s CIF-Southern Section Division 4AA playoffs as the league’s top team. Mountain View defeated South El Monte 52-41 on Friday.
Arroyo fell to 13-13 overall, 6-4 in league, and finished third.
Arroyo, behind nine points from Primitivo Gomez, held what seemed an insurmountable 48-40 lead with just more than a minute to play.
Anthony Ching pulled the Eagles to within 48-43 with the first of his team’s four 3s in the final minute.
Arroyo helped Gabrielino by gambling on the inbound pass. Steven Rivera threw it deep to a teammate who broke behind the defense, but the ball was overthrown and went out of bounds.
“Steven Rivera is an All-CIF quarterback, so I put him back there (inbounding the ball),” Arroyo coach Carlos Barajas said. “We had the guy open, but we also had the other guard open in another spot. It was his decision. It was a bang-bang play. It is what it is.
“They got open looks and they made them. If you defend, do what you’re supposed to and maybe get a hand up, it might be a little different, but they made their shots.”
Lam’s banked 3-pointer made it 48-46, and the Eagles fouled Gomez, who made one of two free throws for a 49-46 lead that was erased on Gabrielino’s next possession and Ching’s second 3-pointer during the rally.
“I knew we could make shots. It was just a matter of finally making them,” Gabrielino coach John Carney said. “I knew there was plenty of time (when we were down 48-40), so we just wanted to extend the game and make them hit some free throws.
“It should come down to this, because it was like this all year, but that’s good for basketball. It’s fun.”