With 29 seconds left in the game and the score tied at 63, Atascadero High point guard Robbie Berwick dribbled the ball near half court against Righetti’s best player, Cameron Walker.
There was little question who was taking the last shot for the Greyhounds. Berwick faked an initial drive, darted back, still keeping his dribble alive.
Then with about 10 seconds, he streaked left toward the 3-point line. Sensing Berwick might need a little space, teammate Joe Johnson set a screen against Walker, a lanky 6-foot-7 defender.
Walker was momentarily pinned by Johnson’s pick and Berwick rose up, released his shot with plenty of rotation, and then splash.
Three seconds remained on the clock after the made 3-pointer, but the Warriors couldn’t get a shot off as time expired.
The Greyhounds fans, many clad in orange, rushed their home floor and hoisted Berwick on their shoulders after the 66-63 win that earned Atascadero a tie for first with Righetti in the PAC 7 league race Wednesday with one game remaining.
Berwick held up his finger in the form of “number one” and nodded his head as mayhem ensued in the celebration.
“This moment is huge,” Berwick said. “All summer, and all year long, we’ve talked about winning league. My teammates trusted me and I had confidence at the end of the game with the ball in my hands.”
Berwick scored a game-high 29 points, added five assists and four rebounds to lead the Greyhounds (16-8, 9-2).
Johnson added nine points and eight rebounds. Connor Kim had 10 points and a pivotal steal and scoring layup in the open court with about a minute left in the game to put the Greyhounds ahead 63-61.
Atascadero coach Matt Knudson credited his team’s effort on defense, collapsing on Walker throughout the game, and their clutch play for the dramatic win.
Knudson said Berwick cemented his status as a player with Division 1 college talent with his performance.
“That’s why he’s a Division I college player,” Knudson said. “No matter where he ends up playing, he’s going to be good.”
Knudson said that his team shot the ball better in the Monday win against St. Joseph and missed some easy layups Wednesday.
But he said the Greyhounds’ toughness inside really helped on a night when they were undersized against the Warriors (13-11, 9-2).
Atascadero sophomore center Ryan O’Connell has sat out the past three games with sickness and the Greyhound had to contend with Walker and 6-4 power forward Frankie Platero in the paint.
Knudson said he spent most of Tuesday’s practice working on defense against Walker, who scored many of his 15 points at the free-throw line. Platero had 12 for the Warriors.
Kevin Woodard, a 6-4 center for Atascadero, fought fiercely for position against Platero, at one point coming face-to-face with him after a struggle for a rebound in which Woodard fell to the floor.
Shooting guard Jared Stuedemann had 11 points and 10 rebounds for the Greyhounds while playing in foul trouble.
But it was the thrilling final two minutes that propelled the Greyhounds to victory in front of Cal Poly head coach Joe Callero.
Berwick carried his team down the stretch, draining two difficult 3-pointers in the final two minutes with his team down six to tie the score. Then he drained the game winner.
Knudson said the Greyhounds run a read offense in which his players move according to how the defense is positioned. He said Johnson’s screen was all his own initiative. Berwick concurred that it was a key play in the game.
“Joe’s screen really freed me up,” Berwick said. “That was the non-scoring play of the year for us.”
Atascadero closes out the regular season Friday at Pioneer Valley while Righetti is at San Luis Obispo.