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Santa Clara Checkmates Santa Paula

Boys' basketball: Cardinals miss two three-pointers at the finish and Saints escape with 51-48 victory.


SANTA PAULA — Santa Clara Coach Marty Meyer did not want to play a chess match with Santa Paula Coach Tom Donahue.

Santa Clara was protecting a one-point lead with 28 seconds to play, Ernesto Lopez of Santa Paula claimed a defensive rebound. Donahue called timeout and designed a play for Lopez to take a three-point shot.

But Lopez's three-pointer missed. Alex Minney of Santa Clara hit two free throws with eight seconds to play and Ryan Frutos missed a three-pointer as time expired to preserve Santa Clara's 51-48 victory Thursday night. The victory gave Santa Clara the Frontier League championship.

The Saints (13-10, 7-1 in league play) overcame a 14-point deficit in the second quarter by holding the Cardinals (14-11, 5-3) without a field goal in the third quarter and only 13 points in the second half.

"Santa Paula knows their offense so well," Meyer said. "To shut them down in their gym is impressive. But the last thing you want to see is [Donahue] with a chance to draw a play with the game on the line."

Albert Soria of Santa Clara ignited a 23-5 run in which the Saints turned a 32-18 deficit with 4:04 to play in the second quarter into a 41-37 lead entering the fourth quarter.

Frutos tied the score, 45-45, with 2:40 to play, but Santa Clara scored the next four points.

Lopez's three-point play with 1:29 to play cut the lead to 49-48.

That set the stage for the deciding play.

"He is, bar none, the best coach in this league," Meyer said of Donahue. "No disrespect to the other coaches in the league, but you don't want to see him draw up a play on you in the last [28] seconds."

The Cardinals wanted to isolate Lopez on the left wing.

But a poor pass to Lopez allowed the defense to recover, forcing him into an off-balance shot that barely hit the rim.

"[The players] didn't follow the directions," Donahue said. "We ended up taking a bad shot. It was not the shot I wanted us to take. It was not designed for [Lopez] to take an off-balance shot."

Soria and Minney brought the Saints back. Soria scored seven consecutive points and Santa Clara narrowed the margin to 35-29 at halftime.

"They thought they were going to crush us after that run," Soria said. "They run everything through Frutos, so if we could take him out of the game, we knew we had a chance to win.'

Santa Paula missed all seven shots it took in the third quarter. Frutos, who scored 15 points, had only six points after the first quarter.

Soria, a 47% three-point shooter, had only one three-pointer but scored 22 points and teamed with Adrian Santana to defend Frutos.

Donahue said Santa Paula got complacent after Lopez scored 11 points in the second quarter.

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