Mt. San Jacinto and defending state champion Saddleback played an even game for 39 minutes and 59 seconds Saturday night, before Marquis Green made a three point shot from the corner with 0.9 seconds remaining in the game to give the Gauchos a 66-63 win in a state quarter final game at Mission Viejo.
The Eagles held their own the entire game leading at halftime 31-30. In a rugged game that featured many long possessions that went down to the end of the shot clock, MSJC out rebounded the bigger Gauchos 35-30.
In the second half Saddleback came out and built the lead to as much as 8, before the Eagles chipped away to keep them within striking distance. Late in the game the Gauchos held a two point lead and had the ball with 12 seconds remaining. Kris Brooks forced a jump ball on the Saddleback in bounds pass giving MSJC the ball and one more chance. MSJC's Eric Lawton was fouled as he drove to the basket with 7 seconds to go and was awarded two free throws. Lawton made the first to cut the lead to 63-62, then on the second he missed off the right rim, but Brooks was there for the offensive rebound and was fouled on the put back attempt. Brooks stepped to the line and made one of two to tie the game at 63 with 5 seconds left. After a time out Saddleback in bounded the ball throwing it near half court, then turned and threw it to the corner where Green was able to get the shot off for the win. The clock stopped with 0.9 seconds remaining, but many Saddleback players and fans had already rushed onto the court in celebration. After the delay, MSJC inbounded the ball but a desperation three quarter court shot fell short giving the Gauchos the win.
The Eagles were led in scoring Saturday by Jammall Clark who had 19 points and 8 rebounds. Darren May added 15 points for the Eagles while Mo Aziz had 11 and Eric Lawton 10. Dakota Downs pulled down a game high 12 rebounds in the losing effort.
The loss concludes the Eagles season at 22-9. This was the first time since 1999 that MSJC advanced to the Elite Eight of the state tournament. That season the Eagles fell in the state title game to Cerritos. Saddleback reaches the state Final Four for the third straight season and improved to 27-6.
Dakota Downs goes up for a contested shot Saturday at Saddleback as MSJC lost 66-63 in the State Quarter-Final game that was decided with less than one second left. (photo-DeeAnn Bradley/MSJC)