It's been a decent enough basketball season for Jason Hamlin, the El Modena High School point guard.
But until the final buzzer Wednesday night, he hadn't had the sort of game that makes a player feel like bronzing his hightops for posterity and saving a videotape for his grandchildren.
It came on the last shot of the game--a jumper from the top of the key at the last possible second to beat Century League-leading Santa Ana, 64-62.
The Saints (11-2, 18-6) dropped into a tie for first place with Foothill; El Modena clinched third place and a CIF Southern Section 4-A playoff berth at 9-4, 12-9.
For the Record
Los Angeles Times Friday February 14, 1986 Orange County Edition Sports Part 3 Page 12 Column 1 Sports Desk 1 inches; 19 words Type of Material: Correction
A headline in Thursday's Times sports section incorrectly identified El Modena High School basketball star Jason Hamlin as Hamblin.
"I'm so happy," Hamlin said from within a wreath of congratulatory hugs by teammates and fans. "This was by far my best game of the year. It kind of stands for all of them.
"I wanted this game bad. I went to church and said, 'Dear Lord, I want this bad. It's my last game at El Modena.' And He gave it to me."
Hamlin, who scored 16 points, said the upset also fulfilled a promise he had made to a rival coach he admires, Foothill's Jim Reames.
"All those Foothill guys are like my best friends and I really respect Coach Reames. After we beat them by 14 last time, I went in and told him, 'We're going to get Santa Ana for you."
Indeed, the Vanguard's victory sets up a showdown between the Saints and Knights at Santa Ana Friday. Last time they met, Foothill won on a 50-foot shot at the buzzer.
Santa Ana's Bobby Joyce did everything in his power to avert his team's second league loss Wednesday. Joyce, a 6-foot 6-inch sophomore center, scored a career-high 34 points, blocked four shots, and recorded five steals. Guard Scooti Lynwood, despite suffering from the flu, had a career-high 13 assists.
But the Saints played lethargically early in the game, as the outside-shooting Vanguards seized a surprising 20-8 lead at the end of the first quarter against the Saints' zone.
Santa Ana switched their defense to man-to-man and their fortunes improved. The Saints took a 34-32 advantage at the half, thanks to Joyces' 13 second-quarter points.
They had their biggest margin of the night at 49-45 entering the third quarter, but missed several opportunities to put the Vanguards away. El Modena forward Ryan Rycraw played an intelligent game, using his composure to keep the Vanguards in contention with his 10 fourth-quarter points.
Joyce scored two baskets and a free throw with less than three minutes left, but Vanguard Darren De Feo made two clutch free throws to tie the game, 60-60, with 1:41 left. The Saints then stole the ball and Joyce scored again on an assist by Eric Turner.
But the Vanguards remained calm as De Feo threw a perfect pass underneath to Rycraw, who laid it in for a 62-62 tie with 10 seconds left.
When the Saints inbounded the ball to Joyce at midcourt, El Modena's Corey Ahart applied pressure. With six seconds left, Ahart managed to scoop the ball from near Joyce's feet, setting up Hamlin's winning shot.
SANTA ANA (62)--Lynwood 2, Stewart 6, Bailey 5, Lane 4, Joyce 34, Turner 11.
EL MODENA (64)--Hamlin 16, Ahart 9, Rycraw 22, DeGree 2, De Feo 15.
Foothill 68, Tustin 50--Derek Johnson scored a game-high 28 points and Doug Kopcha added 17 as the Knights (11-2, 19-5) beat the Tillers at Foothill. Johnson also had seven rebounds. Rog Middleton and Kevin Anderson of the Tillers (7-6, 13-10) had 14 points each.
TUSTIN (50)--Anderson 14, Urshel 3, Parker 4, Middleton 14, Patstone 4, Herman 7, Menges 4.
FOOTHILL (68)--Johnson 28, Schlines 4, Grahovac 10, Rasmussen 7, Kopcha 17, Peckham 2.
Canyon 70, Villa Park 60--Ralph Garcia scored 16 points and grabbed 9 rebounds to lead the Commanches (3-10, 7-13) to the win over the Spartans (0-13, 4-17). Forward John Williams scored 15 points for Canyon; Spartan forward Greg Burton led all scorers with 21 points.
CANYON (70)--Garcia 16, Simpson 2, Williams 15, Ream 13, Jones 10, Mury 2, Pavlich 8, Frye 4.
VILLA PARK (60)--Barnett 15, Burton 21, Creagan 4, Sipe 2, Tanner 10, Storck 8.
Orange 61, Santa Ana Valley 46--Senior forward Dave Roth scored 27 points to lead the Panthers (7-6, 12-12) to the victory at home over the Falcons (4-9, 10-13). Orange center Eric Dowell added 13 points, and Alonzo Jamison led Santa Ana Valley with 22 points.
SANTA ANA VALLEY (46)--Jamison 22, Contreras 6, Johnson 2, Alvarez 6, Nguyen 2, Quinn 6, Acosta 2.
ORANGE (61)--Roth 27, Peterson 2, Dowell 13, Holman 12, Adams 6, Smith 1.