The Mountain Valley Conference wouldn't have wanted it any other way.
College of the Canyons and L.A. Southwest, meeting for the conference championship at the Sports Arena on Friday, played one of those dream games. In a match between two of the top 20 teams in the state, the game was won in the closing seconds of overtime.
Southwest beat Canyons, 87-85, when Canyons' center Anthony Hines came up short on a 23-foot jump shot with five seconds left and guard Derek Hughes couldn't convert the offensive rebound. Southwest claimed its first Mountain Valley Conference title, taking it away from the defending champions.
This was the last MVC basketball championship. The four-year-old conference will disband at the end of this school year and become part of the larger Southern California Athletic Assn.
After being down, 47-32, at halftime, Southwest chipped away at Canyons' lead behind the shooting of Bruce Chew and Charles Webb. With five minutes left, Chew hit a 12-foot jumper that brought Southwest to within two points. Webb connected two minutes later to give Southwest a 69-67 lead.
The teams exchanged baskets until two minutes remained. Canyons guard James Mixon hit two free throws to put his team up by two with 49 seconds left. Damon Walker, who came off the bench to score five second-half points, scored with 17 seconds left to tie the score at 81. Mixon was fouled, but he missed the first shot of a one-and-one and the clock ran out, sending the game into a five-minute overtime.
Canyons rallied to lead, 85-84, in overtime. After Roy Jones responded with two free throws, Walker intercepted an inbounds pass and was fouled. His free throw made it 87-85.
"When you get this close, something has to be on your side," Canyons Coach Lee Smelser said. "Nothing was."
Southwest (10-0, 26-4 overall) is ranked No. 9 in the state and will be the top team representing the conference in the Southern California regionals in two weeks. Canyons (8-2, 19-9 overall) is ranked No. 13 in Southern California and will be the No. 2 representative.
Southwest made 15 of 17 free throws in the second half. It also had help from its two big men, Jones and Brian Brundage. Jones, a 6-9 sophomore center, scored eight of his 10 points in the second half while playing with four fouls. Brundage, also a 6-9 sophomore center, scored a team-high 25 points.
SOUTHWEST--Blowe 4; Chew 21; Richardson 4; Webb 17; Chaney 1; Brundage 25; Jones 10; Walker 5.
CANYONS--Mixon 18; Hughes 7; Honaker 6; Ray 26; Stapp 11; Aitken 4; Fontenette 4; Hines 9.