Basketball: Late 3-pointer sinks Gavilan

There have been glimpses into the potential of the Gavilan men’s basketball team through its tumultuous season on the court. A handful of plays here and there that if corrected or flipped-flopped, fortunes turn in the Rams’ favor.
Friday night crudely crammed the Rams’ season into an unwelcomed nutshell – a microcosm of 2011-12 in the truest form.
Behind Scott Taylor and Derek Jensen’s timely sharp shooting, the Gavilan College men’s basketball team orchestrated a second-half comeback from down by 13 with 12 minutes left to up by two and on the verge of Coast Conference victory No. 1 against visiting Hartnell. However, an unfathomable 3-pointer and a pair of Panthers’ free throws carried Hartnell to a 76-73 win over the Rams.
With the game tied and less than one minute remaining, Panthers’ guard Michael Salazar beat the shot clock with a deep trey – his only made bucket of the game – to push the Panthers back in front of the surging Rams, 74-71. Andrew Belonia made it 74-73 with six seconds to play. A quick foul sent Connor Brady to the line where he converted both free throws. Gavilan earned a good look from the top of the arc for Jensen, who had been red-hot all half. His 3-point shot at the buzzer dipped in and rattled out.
“Derek did a nice job of calming himself down in the second half,” Gavilan head coach Tito Addison said. “He’s a mature kid and that’s why I had him in there. He’s not afraid to take the tough shot. He was the guy we wanted to get the ball to at the end. And I thought we were going to overtime.”
After a poor, turnover filled first half left the Rams down 43-30, a different Gavilan team – ramped up defense, limited turnovers and a dialed-in Taylor and Jensen – created a much more even second half.
“It was nice to see the two of them play well together at the same time,” Addison said.
Taylor, on 5-of-6 shooting, including 4-of-5 from downtown, scored 14 of his team-high 20 points in the second half. Jensen contributed 11 of his 13 points during the comeback, which included an 11-2 run that cut into the deficit 59-54. Five consecutive points from Jensen and a Belonia rebound and put back tied it, 66-66. Jensen gave the Rams the lead for the first time since the 15:44 mark of the first half with two free throws. The lead changed hands three more times over the final three minutes before Salazar’s back-breaker.
“What’s difficult with this group of guys is making adjustments. If we are not on and hitting shots, the next thing is to make adjustments. But they actually did a great job of picking up the pace,” Addison said. “We held their leading scorer down and then life happens. He hits a 32-footer to win.”
A 3-pointer from Jordan Ramirez and Taylor, plus five more points from Matt Johnson, propelled the Rams out to an 11-3 advantage five minutes into the game. Turnovers (14 in the first half) and Hartnell’s Relius Thomas soon dissolved that advantage, as the Panthers (10-14 overall, 4-7 Conference) went on a 23-4 run spanning seven minutes. Thomas finished the half with 18 of his game-high 28 points and the Rams were down by 13 at the break.
“Countless turnovers from lack of confidence in dribbling the ball, making decisions – just things that we have been harping on all season long,” Addison said. “But once again, this team showed its resiliency and battled back.”
The Rams (1-21 overall, 0-10 conference) have two more tries to get their first conference win – at Cabrillo on Wednesday and at home for the season finale Friday against West Valley.
Ramirez finished with nine points, Johnson had 10 and both Zack Smith and Belonia chipped in six apiece for the Rams.

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