Minutes after Cleveland High's 93-78 win over Fremont on Wednesday night, Bob Braswell climbed up a backboard with a little help from his friends and pulled the net off the rim, loop by loop.
The gesture by the Cleveland coach was symbolic, because the victory enabled the Cavaliers to climb into the City semifinals, which begin Friday at the Sports Arena.
On the other end of the court, which was by this time swamped with delirious Cleveland fans, center Antoine Shofner sat straddling the heel of the basket as he ripped off the net.
Shofner's gesture was also symbolic. The Cavaliers had collared the Pathfinders by extending a two-point halftime lead into a rout, hoop by hoop.
"Back to the arena," Braswell shouted, and although the Cleveland players and fans acted like the team had just won a City title, it will take two wins at the Sports Arena for that dream to come true for the Cavaliers.
Leading Cleveland was senior Trevor Wilson, the 6-8 forward who guided the Cavaliers to the City semifinals in his final chance.
Wilson had 29 points and 15 rebounds, not unusual for him, but he also passed for nine assists. And in a key fourth-quarter sequence, Wilson made two straight assists to help Cleveland to an 86-70 lead with 4:20 left. The game was all but over at that point.
Fremont had led, 44-42, early in the third quarter on two inside baskets by center Russell Gilson. Wilson, however, quickly countered with a 17-foot jumper and a layup following a steal. Fremont never led again.
Damon Greer, a sophomore guard in his second varsity season, made two consecutive baskets of his own midway through the third period--the second following his steal of an inbounds pass--to extend the Cleveland lead to 56-49. Greer had 18 points.
Albert Fann stole the next Fremont inbounds pass as well, and the Cavalier blowout was on.
Fremont's fate was sealed when Gilson, who had 15 points, fouled out with four minutes left and Cleveland leading, 86-72. Four Pathfinders fouled out in all.
Fremont kept the game close with accurate free throw shooting. Reserve guard Calvin Kyles hit 10 of 13 foul shots and Fremont made 24 of 35 as a team.
Cleveland hit just 4 of 17 free throws in the first half, but made 17 of 23 in the last two periods. Wilson, after missing his only four free throws in the first half, made five of six after halftime.
During the first half, the Pathfinders, who knocked Cleveland out of the playoffs in the first round two seasons ago, appeared to be a solid match for the Cavaliers. A torrid first quarter ended with Cleveland leading only 25-23.
Cleveland, the Valley 4-A League co-champion, improved its record to 15-7. Fremont, which tied for second in the Central League, finished 15-8.