By Victor Carno
A collective sigh of relief was followed by absolute pandemonium as the shot clock buzzed and the Dana Hills boys basketball team held on to claim their spot in the CIF-SS Division 1A semifinals with a narrow 61-59 quarterfinals win over West Ranch on February 22.
The Dolphins will now travel to play Santa Monica in the semifinals on February 26.
The first half was a neck and neck brawl, with the opening two quarters ending with West Ranch (21-7, 9-1 league) holding a two point advantage. During half-time, Dana Hills (23-7,6-2) head coach Tom Desiano rounded up his team’s nerves and urged them to stick to their own style of play.
“(I told them) to have patience, play like you normally play, and attack the basket,” Desiano said.
What Desiano said must have worked, because the third quarter was just the edge the Dolphins needed.
A more relaxed and centered Dolphins team took control by pushing the tempo and putting up 20 points while simultaneously dismantling West Ranch’s offense with a strong defensive effort. The only points West Ranch received in the third quarter came from free-throws. The quarter came to a close with the Dolphin’s up 47-39.
West Ranch made one final push in the fourth quarter, draining three shots from beyond the arc and coupled that with a concerted effort to attack the basket, which resulted in seven West Ranch points from free throws alone.
The Dolphins were frazzled and were beginning to panic when they found themselves only up by one point after West Ranch sunk a 3-pointer with 12 seconds remaining in the game.
Dolphins senior guard Hayden Fredrick received the ensuing inbounds pass, but couldn’t seem to hold on to it, throwing it away and putting West Ranch in perfect position to take home the win.
The Dolphins, seeing the semifinals slipping away, attacked West Ranch with everything they had on defense for those final 12 seconds, forcing the Wildcats to take an off-balance shot that missed and regained possession with 4.5 seconds remaining and a one point lead.
The crowd was finally able to breathe again, and as soon as that final buzzer sounded, the court was flooded by Dana Hills students and parents.
The real story of the game came from Dana Hills playing as a team and moving the ball. Senior guard Cory Blau put up all 12 of his points in the second half. While Dillon Greuel had a solid game with 14 points, his aggressive defensive efforts causing him to foul out.
Kevin Harris, of the Wildcats, carried his team with 21 points.
After the court had cleared Desiano put it best.
“(Our team) played their butts off,” he said.