Kennedy High's 12-point fourth-quarter lead Thursday at Taft melted away like an ice cream cone on a hot summer afternoon and, in the last half-minute, the Toreadors looked like they might pull out a sweet victory.
Instead, they tasted bitter defeat.
Taft missed three shots in the final nine seconds, two from within five feet of the basket, as Kennedy held off a furious Toreador rally to win the Valley League game, 59-58.
"This is very disappointing. We had three shots at it," said Taft Coach Jim Woodard, whose club slipped to 5-5 in league play and 13-6 overall.
Kennedy (15-2, 7-2) owned a seemingly comfortable 48-36 lead entering the fourth quarter, but Taft guard Dedan Thomas, colder than a popsicle to that point, heated up in the final period to make things interesting.
Thomas was just 4 of 13 from the field until the fourth quarter, then made 5 of 8 shots and scored 12 points in the last period to bring the Toreadors back.
"I thought I held Thomas pretty well the first three quarters, but in the fourth quarter, he took over. He's quick," said Cougar guard Mike Schlesinger, who had to cover Thomas most of the night.
Thomas' long jumper with 38 seconds to play cut Kennedy's lead to 59-58. Schlesinger was fouled with 28 seconds left and stepped to the free-throw line for the game's first one-and-one free-throw situation. Schlesinger, who had shot just once and was scoreless to that point, missed the front end, but the ball caromed off the hand of Taft's Quincy Watts and out of bounds to Kennedy.
The Cougars' Uba Satterfield, who hit 10 of 13 shots and led all scorers with 24 points, inbounded the ball, but Thomas made a leaping interception and missed a shot in the lane at the other end with 12 seconds to play. The rebound was knocked out of bounds by Kennedy, and Taft called timeout with nine seconds left.
Thomas got the call when the Toreadors inbounded, but his 18-footer was off line and Taft's Lamont Koonce rebounded and missed from five feet. Watts grabbed Koonce's miss under the basket and put up a shot with one second left, but it rolled around and off the rim as the buzzer sounded.
Woodard thought Watts was fouled on his final attempt, and Watts agreed.
"I wasn't falling backward because of the wind," Watts said.
Thomas led Taft with 20 points and Watts added 14. Koonce led all rebounders with 11, but Kennedy outrebounded the Toreadors, 34-27.
Clarence Williams had 13 points and 6 rebounds for Kennedy.