Bret Harte's Tyler Evans had the hot hand on Friday night contributing a whopping game-high 29 points for the Bullfrogs in their rivalry battle against the Calaveras Redskins.
But his most important bucket came with just two seconds left on the clock to ice the win.
The Redskins attempted to run out the remaining roughly 40 seconds, but the Bullfrogs regained possession off a defensive rebound and quickly dished it to Evans who dribbled the length of the court and drained a 15-foot contested jumper for the 68-67 victory in front of a packed Mike Flock Gym.
"I had a lot of confidence in the shot because I practice it a lot," said Evans, a senior. "When I was bringing up the ball, it seemed like their whole team was guarding me. But when the ball went in, it felt like the best moment of my life."
This kind of close contest is nothing new for the Bullfrogs this season.
The Bullfrogs dropped a close one, 47-45, to Calaveras at the Bret Harte Tournament in December and a double-overtime thriller to Summerville the next month. They avenged that early season loss to Calaveras on Jan. 11 by edging the Redskins in a 60-55 nail biter.
"All these kids have been through a lot of tough situations and games like this don't seem to bother this group," said Bret Harte head coach Jeff Eltringham. "The closer the game, the more focused they get. It makes you proud to watch them do that."
Calaveras was actually leading at the half, 30-20, but a 32-19 third quarter put Bret Harte in front 52-49 heading into the drama-filled final period.
Evans was deadly from long-range, sinking five 3-pointers on the night. Bret Harte junior Will Whited scored 16 points and shot seven-for-seven from the free-throw line.
Accurate shooting by the Bullfrogs helpedswing the game in their favor. As a team, they went 21-for-26 from the charity stripe while Calaveras went 13-for-24.
"It was a well-fought game on both sides," said Calaveras head coach Kraig Clifton. "I couldn't ask for more from my kids effort-wise, just a few missed free throws here and a turnover there turned out to be the difference in the game."
Bret Harte's Rodney Riner pulled down eight rebounds and played strong defense inside that helped the Bullfrogs keep the game within reach, said Eltringham.
"His post-defense inside was obviously key for us, and we did a little better on offensive rebounds with Rodney picking that up on our end," said Eltringham.
For Calaveras, Redskin junior Kyle Gouveia led the team with 17 points. He also led in rebounding with 13 of his team's 25 total boards for a double-double on the night.
"I was just really nervous about that game so it feels good that I did well," Gouveia said. "We were planning to just play hard and come out with a win, but that didn't happen."
Clifton praised Gouveia's effort in Friday's game and development on the season.
"He plays without any fear and in these last couple games he's kind of grown up a bit," Clifton said. "We hope it continues because that's a big difference for us."
Clifton said he'll try to make sure his Redskins (6-14, 2-7 Mother Lode League) don't get too hung up on the difficult loss going into a three-game week where they will be tipping off against the likes of Argonaut, Amador and Linden.
"We're trying to use it for fuel," explained Clifton. "We want to bring that into the next game and take it out on someone else."
Meanwhile, the Bullfrogs (15-6, 7-2 MLL) sit in second place behind the undefeated Summerville Bears. They face-off against Linden on Tuesday, Summerville on Thursday and Amador on Friday.
"I try to tell the kids we're taking it one game at a time," Eltringham said. "Our kids like playing against very good players and Summerville obviously has that. Amadoralso a very good team and plays very hard and we have to play them in their gym on Friday. When you play Linden at home, you never know.
"I think it's going to be a big week for the Mother Lode League."