Chris Loll's twisting jump shot in the waning seconds Friday night against Westlake High loosened a knot at the top of the Marmonte League standings heading into the final week of the regular season.
But it was his play all week that lifted Thousand Oaks out of the role of spoiler and into playoff contention.
Loll, a 6-foot-5 junior, scored 56 points and grabbed 24 rebounds in three victories.
"Chris really stepped forward," Thousand Oaks Coach Ed Chevalier said.
Against Royal, Loll scored 16 points, including nine of 10 from the free-throw line. In the fourth quarter of the 73-67 win, he hit seven consecutive free throws--including both ends of three one-and-ones.
"I figured that if I missed the front end of any of those one-and-ones, we wouldn't win," said Loll, who leads the Lancers in scoring (15.6 average), rebounding (7.1), assists (3.1), steals (1.1) and blocks (1.6).
He is also hitting 80.5% from the free-throw line.
Against Channel Islands, he made five of nine field-goal attempts and nine of 10 free throws to score 20 points in just 25 minutes.
Yet he was even stronger against Westlake. Already having scored 11 points in the last 10 minutes, the left-handed Loll took the ball at the top of the key with Thousand Oaks trailing, 61-60. He faked right, cut left, and hit a jump shot over two defenders with 12 seconds left. The shot proved to be the game-winner when Westlake couldn't score.
"I knew we had to score," Loll said. "I saw the opening and took sort of a leaning jump shot."
It turned out to be one mean lean for Westlake.
"That shot was a clutch, senior-type shot," Chevalier said. "He just made up his mind he was going to make something happen."
Westlake Coach Greg Hess also was impressed because his Warriors are one of the league's best defensive teams.
"We had people in his face, and ka-boom," Hess said. "He's a gutsy kid. He made the difference."