Arrowhead Christian’s David Howerzyl recovered his own missed layup and scored as time expired Saturday night, leading the Eagles to a 62-60 victory over Bishop Diego in the CIF-SS Div. 5AA championship game.
The Cardinals (21-12) were in control in the early going but found themselves trailing 57-50 with 90 seconds remaining before rallying back. Tyler Williams knocked down a pull-up jumper with 1:14 left to cut the deficit to 57-52.
Bishop was able to force a turnover on the ensuing inbounds, but was unable to convert. Howerzyl went to the line a split the pair to put his team up by six, but the Cardinals refused to fold.
With 49 seconds left, Bishop’s Kai Morphy was fouled on a deep 3-point attempt and, as he has done throughout the playoffs, calmy stepped to the line and knocked down all three to make it 58-55. Freshman Bryan Trejo was able to come away with a steal on the inbounds and was immediately fouled. He knocked down both at the charity stripe to make it a 58-57 game with 46.9 seconds to go.
Arrowhead’s Gabe Torrez was then fouled and split a pair at the line to make it a two-point game with 40 seconds left.
With under 30 seconds remaining, Bishop’s Matthew Cunningham drove down the court and threw up a left-handed layup that rolled around the iron but did not fall. Torrez came away with the ball and was again fouled, and yet again he split the pair at the line to make it 60-57.
Morphy got the inbounds and drove on the right side of the floor, kicking it out to Cunningham, who splashed a 3-pointer to tie the game at 60 with 19 seconds remaining.
The Eagles got the ball down low as the clock wound down before Connor Streett forced a jump ball. Arrowhead Christian retained possession with 2.8 seconds to go, called a timeout and drew up what ended up being the game-winning play.
The Cardinals came out in a 2-3 zone defense and Streett was able to contest the shot and force Howerzyl to miss. The 6’6 big man would not be denied, however, as he regained possession and laid the ball in as time ran out.
“I contemplated a man-to-man (defense),” Bishop coach James Coronado said when asked about the last possession during the post-game press conference. “We knew they were going to do the cross screen… I felt we defended it about as good as you can. There’s not much you can do when one guy is 6’6 and the other guy is 6’1 or 6’2. And then we got the miss and credit to him… the second jump, he went and got the rebound and put it back.
“Probably the longest 2.2 or 2.8 seconds of my life.”
When the jump ball was originally called, there was only 2.2 seconds left on the clock. Following a conference by the officials, an extra 0.6 seconds was added to the game clock, which gave Howerzyl enough time to corral the miss and put it back up.
“We battled and battled,” Coronado said. “We knew the rebounds were going to be an issue. Obviously the last one makes it seem like it was an issue all game, but for the most part I loved the way we battled. There was a couple of just crazy bounces that they got and, like I said, there’s nothing we can do about that.”
After the layup went through, the Eagles players stormed the court to celebrate the school’s first CIF boys basketball title. While Streett was able to force the initial miss, Morphy crashed inside to defend the layup. After it went through, the sophomore sat on the low block in disbelief.
“We knew where they were going. We did all we could to stop them, but it wasn’t enough,” Morphy said postgame.
The Cardinals were in control for a majority of the first half. Williams had the hot hand in the early going, scoring 10 of his 15 points in the first quarter. His 3-pointer from the left corner with 40 seconds left in the first gave Bishop a 21-10 lead. Bishop led by nine after one.
To open the second quarter, the Eagles had six players on the floor but it went unnoticed by the officials — much to the chagrin of the Bishop faithful. After Arrowhead scored on the first possession of the quarter, the referees met and waved the basket off and assigned the Eagles with a technical foul. Morphy converted both the technical free throws to make it 23-12.
With 4:39 left in the second, Cunningham drilled a three from the wing to give Bishop a 30-17 lead. The Eagles closed the half on a 5-0 run to cut the deficit to eight.
Arrowhead Christian shot a blistering 57.5% from the field in the final two quarters, outscoring Bishop 40-30.
Arrowhead’s Cayson Cloar’s acrobatic layup with 6:15 left in the third cut the Bishop lead to 30-28. The Cardinals continued to battle and a Cunningham layup gave Bishop a 39-26 lead with 2:14 left in the period.
Cloar knocked down a corner three with 54 seconds left in the third to give the Eagles a 41-39 lead. The teams were tied at 43 heading to the fourth.
The teams went back and forth in the final period before the Eagles began to pull away. Cloar’s fourth and final triple of the night gave Arrowhead a 52-45 lead with 6:04 left.
After the game, Cloar said he was struggling to find his touch in the first half, but kept at it and knew he would have to create for himself to find openings.
“Every one of those shots that I took, it was crazy because I wasn’t expecting it to go in,” he said. “I was doing my normal mechanics and all of that, but it felt that God willed that and they all went in.”
Trejo’s basket with 4:40 left cut the Eagles lead to seven. Torrez, who finished with a game-high 20 points, converted on a layup with 3:42 left to make it 56-47.
Morphy, who scored 17 points on the night, drilled a triple from the left corner to make it 56-50 with 3:19 before Bishop’s late-game surge.
“I thought we took all the right shots,” Coronado said after the game. “I didn’t see a bad shot. In the second half, they just didn’t fall. If you were to tell me we would hit all the same shots we got, I would say we won by 20 but that’s how it goes.
“It just sucks that we lose on a last-second tip, but I’m really proud of the kids.”
The win caps off an incredible year for the Eagles. They were an at-large big to the CIF playoffs after finishing fifth in the Ambassador League. The team realized they had a special group midway through the season following a loss to Aquinas, which went 26-6 overall and 12-2 in league play. The Eagles led by as many as seven points against their conference foe before losing by three.
“Once we saw that, we were like ‘oh, we can hang with anybody and we have a chance to compete for a championship in our league,’” Torrez said. “It just made us hungry.”
Despite the tough loss, Coronado is confident his team can rally for the State tournament next week. The tournament bracket is expected to be released today.
“No offense to those guys, they’re a great team and they played well, but I don’t think those guys beat us,” Coronado said. “I think a few rebounds here and there… I could say a few shots, but maybe even one shot. We lost by two. One shot and we win this game and we’ve all got smiles on our faces and everybody’s happy and we’re talking about what we did.
“No doubt in my mind we’ll be ready.”