SACRAMENTO — Needing a last-minute basket to capture a state basketball title in only its second season of varsity competition, Riverside King High turned to its leader, who delivered with the cool confidence that has characterized his ascension to stardom.
Guard Marvin Lea elevated over the outstretched arms of 6-foot-9 David Chiotti for a five-foot basket with 30 seconds left to lift King to a spine-tingling 53-52 victory over Mountain View St. Francis on Friday night in the Division II boys' basketball championship before about 3,000 at Arco Arena.
"I hit the shot like I normally do," Lea quipped afterward. "We knew if we kept fighting that we would do it."
Lea's shot capped a remarkable comeback from a 10-point deficit late in the third quarter, as King became the first team from Riverside County to win a state boys' basketball title.
St. Francis had chances to win on its final two possessions. But guard Hakeem Gilliard was called for a five-second violation while being shadowed by Lea and guard John Montgomery's last-second jumper bounced off the backboard.
"These guys refuse to lose," said King Coach Tim Sweeney Jr. "I think what got us by was their character."
Statistically, Lea and Leon Rosborough led the way as usual. Lea scored 23 points and Rosborough had 13 points and 13 rebounds.
Yet, King's other starters were also instrumental Friday. Garrett Hilt contributed with outstanding defense against an opponent five inches taller. Matt Thomas showcased his outstanding leaping ability while grabbing eight rebounds. And James Ellis hit a three-pointer late in the third quarter to get the Wolves going.
"It's just heart," Hilt said when asked to explain what led to the dramatic turnaround. "You can just feel it on the court."
Lea started King's decisive 14-0 push with less than a minute to play in the third quarter on a three-pointer and a jumper off a steal to pull the Wolves to within 44-39.
Thomas made a driving layup to give King a 45-44 lead. Rosborough then made a three-pointer as the Wolves took a four-point edge. St. Francis, which lost in the title game last year, went back ahead, 52-51, with 41 seconds left on a Chiotti free throw, setting the stage for Lea.