ANAHEIM, Calif. – The road was tough. The task was arduous.
And at the end of the day, Villa Park nearly kept up its surprising run.
The Spartans overcame a 17-point second half deficit and had the ball in the frontcourt sideline out of bounds with 2.9 seconds to play.
Brian Arcinas and Kevin Olsen were trying to exchange a handoff but it was poked away by J.W. North’s Deshon Taylor to preserve the win for No. 1 seed Huskies, giving them their third CIF Southern Section championship in school history, 59-58.
“I just seen the ball and I took it,” Taylor said.
Villa Park trailed 50-37 at the end of the third quarter and used a 12-2 run to knife into the lead.
With just over 2:30 to play, Villa Park 6’10” junior, Lamont Tyler knocked down a turnaround jumper at the free throw line while being fouled. The old-fashioned three point play brought the Spartans to within five, 57-52.
It looked bleak after the next possession when Tyler had a point blank try squirt out which would have cut the deficit to three.
The Spartans, however, showed the fight that helped them overcome an 0-3 start to their season to reach this point.
Olsen came away with a steal in the backcourt. It automatically became a 2-on-1 fast break for the Spartans. He hit Arcinas with a bounce pass for a layup to cut the lead to 59-56.
The Spartans went back to Tyler and the big man connected on a layup to get to within one, 59-58.
The next trip down for the Huskies, they couldn’t hit on the front end of a 1-and-1. Giving the Spartans a chance with 15.1 seconds left resulting in the Taylor steal.
“To get to a CIF final is a huge deal,” Villa Park head coach Kevin Reynolds said. “To get yourself down and to have the composure as a young group to fight your way back and have a chance to win the game in the last possession –I think that every coach in the game wants the opportunity to win in the last possession.”
To go back to Tyler’s layup that made it 59-58, there’s speculation that that basket actually tied the game.
In the first quarter, D.J. Richardson was credited with a made free throw in the first quarter, which was incorrect. When asked following the game if he was aware of the extra point J.W. North was awarded, Reynolds said he did not.
How did that happen?
“I don’t have an answer for that,” he said.
The Huskies had won every playoff game during this championship run by at least 21 points. On Saturday, they had to hold on after being outscored 21-9 in the fourth quarter.
For J.W. North seniors Dorian Butler and Adrian Hughes, they join their fathers as Huskies players to win a CIF championship.
“I have a great story to tell my grandkids later on,” Butler said.