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Cleveland Relives Bad Memories : Last-Second Heroics by Sanders of Fairfax Fells Cavaliers Again

June 25, 1989|STEVE ELLING | Times Staff Writer

There was no mere hint of recollection, such as when the hero flashes back to another time and place in a movie dream sequence.

For Eddie Hill and many of his Cleveland High teammates, their 46-45 loss to Fairfax on Saturday in an L. A. Games boys' basketball quarterfinal was more than a little reminiscent of a recent loss to the Lions.

"It was more than just vaguely familiar," Hill said. "I can't believe it actually happened again."

Four months ago, Fairfax shocked Cleveland, 53-51, in a second-round City Section 4-A Division playoff game at Cleveland, coming from behind to steal a win in the final 10 seconds. The playoff villain was Rodney Sanders, who made a game-winning three-point shot in the final seconds.

This time, Sanders raised the curtain on his senior year by scoring 11 of Fairfax's final 12 points to send the Lions into today's semifinal against Fremont, a 51-37 winner over Manual Arts.

Sanders scored a game-high 19 points and almost single-handedly kept Fairfax in the game down the stretch, nailing three three-point shots in the final five minutes and 37 seconds. His three-point basket with 11 seconds left won the game, and for Hill, it was as if Sanders had registered a 12th-round knockout.

"I think I'd rather lose in the first round than lose like this," said Hill, a senior guard. "This is weak."

Cleveland led by as many as nine points in the second half--the Games feature a 20-minute running clock per half--but couldn't put Fairfax away. Hill, though, nearly countered Sanders' showing by scoring 13 of his team-high 18 points in the second half.

Ten seconds after Sanders drilled a three-point shot to bring Fairfax to within 43-42, Hill missed the front end of a one-and-one situation with a minute left. It was the Cavaliers' only miss from the line--they were eight of nine overall. Fairfax made 21 of 25 from the line.

Fairfax guard Jason Martin made one of two free throws with 45 seconds left to tie the score, 43-43, before Hill threw down an off-balance bank shot from 10 feet with 23 seconds remaining.

Yet Sanders buried Cleveland again when he pulled in a pass near the top of the key, took a step back and clicked on another three-point shot.

"I backed out to the line," said Sanders, a 6-foot-2 guard. "I felt confident from that range, and I thought we might need the (additional) point."

Cleveland's Andre Chevalier--who finished with 12 points--missed a 12-footer from the right side of the key with five seconds left and time ran out as both teams scrambled for the loose ball.

"What did we do, blow a two-point lead with 15 seconds left or something like that?" Hill said, only semi-rhetorically. "It takes some work to lose like that."

And the magic that Fairfax is using still works too. This is like pulling rabbits out of a hat. Nothing up my sleeve, presto....

"It's definitely been a great rivalry," said Cleveland Coach Bob Braswell, who next season will work as an assistant at Cal State Long Beach. "They did a great job again, and I tip my hat to them." Cleveland got itself in position to continue the rivalry with a 54-52 win over Ocean View in a morning game.

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