If Lee Smelser's worst fears come true, Moorpark College's 69-67 victory Saturday night was a glimpse into the future for College of the Canyons.
"I'm sure it's going to be night after night of this," said Smelser, Canyons' coach.
Moorpark dissolved a narrow Canyons lead in the closing minutes of the Western State Conference game at Moorpark. Fred Parks sank a two-foot scoop shot in the closing seconds to break a 67-67 tie and give the Raiders the win.
Moorpark (11-6) evened its conference record at 1-1, while Canyons (11-10) dropped to 1-2 in the WSC.
Moments before Parks' shot, Tom Neumayr set up the Moorpark victory with a pivotal steal and basket to put the Raiders ahead, 66-65. Rich Murphy added a free throw to put Moorpark ahead 67-65.
With Moorpark nursing the two-point lead, Murphy made a crucial mistake in fouling Canyons' hot-shooting Butch Mettinger, who sank two free throws to tie the score, 67-67.
Moorpark called a timeout before Parks received the ball in the middle and scored the winning basket.
"We were just looking for the open man and it was Parks," Moorpark Coach Al Nordquist said.
Nordquist had reason to worry in the final minutes since Moorpark was coming off a 70-69 loss to Glendale. The Raiders lost that WSC-opening game in the final minutes.
But Nordquist was too concerned with Canyons to worry about the Raiders' last game.
"I don't think about the last games," Nordquist said. "We played well tonight, but we played well in the other game and it just wasn't enough."
Neumayr, who is averaging 16 points a game, scored a game-high 20 points to lead Moorpark. He was one of three Raiders in double figures. Murphy and Parks added 14 and 11 points, respectively. Jerry Markray scored 7 points and pulled down 8 rebounds. Aaron Nordquist added 6 points and 5 assists.
Mettinger scored 18 points and was one of three Cougars in double figures. Del Linzy added 15 points, including clutch free-throw shooting throughout the second half, and Rusty Morse scored 12 points. Linzy and Mettinger each pulled down five rebounds.
Trailing, 12-5, with 14:30 remaining in the first half, Canyons outscored Moorpark, 9-2, in the ensuing two minutes. The Cougars built a fragile lead on Troy Lehman's three-point baskets and the strong outside shooting of Mettinger.
Leading, 31-29, at halftime, the Cougars scored five unanswered points in the first two minutes of the second half. Moorpark sliced away at the Canyons lead on baskets by Neumayr and Markray.
Neumayr took Moorpark's scoring duties into his own hands midway through the second half. The sophomore guard scored six consecutive points, four from the free-throw line, to cut Canyons' lead to 50-48.
Neumayr made two free throws with 6:30 to play to give Moorpark its first lead since the opening half, 56-55.
Neither team could control the lead or the momentum in the final six minutes. Smelser blamed the officials for robbing Canyons of momentum in the second half.
"I just felt like there were some calls that didn't need to be made," Smelser said. "They took some balls out of our hands and the momentum away."
The Raiders play at Santa Monica in a WSC game Thursday before returning home for three consecutive games. Canyons plays at Glendale on Thursday.