Brent Vanderveen confidently held his shooting hand high in a follow-through, and with that, the stage was set for one of the most stunning upsets in Southern California prep basketball this season.
On the final possession of the game, though, a wild finish led to a heartbreaker of a loss for the Arroyo Grande High boys basketball team.Vanderveen’s step-back 3-pointer to beat the third-quarter buzzer gave the Eagles a 38-35 lead Friday night over visiting Palm Springs at packed James Gym, but the Indians left the Central Coast with a 49-48 win in the second round of the CIF-Southern Section Division 3AA playoffs.
A 3-pointer by Thaddeus Gray put Palm Springs (24-1), the division’s No. 2 seed, up 49-44 with about two minutes remaining, before a 3 by Gunnar Gomez on the next possession brought the Eagles (20-9) within 49-47. It was after that, though, when things got really frenzied.
As the final buzzer sounded, it originally looked like Vanderveen tipped in the tying basket, sending Eagles players into raucous celebration and the home crowd’s roar to a deafening level.
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Prior to Vanderveen’s tip-in, though, a foul had been called on Palm Springs underneath the basket. After an official explained the situation at the scorer’s table, 0.2 seconds were put back on the clock, and Kelly Shepard was sent to the free-throw line.
“To be honest with you, I’m still not 100 percent (sure) what it was all about,” Eagles coach Ryan Glanville said of the sequence, “but there was a foul that occurred at the end, so we did get the two free throws but not the basket.”
Shepard’s first shot barely rattled out. He sank the second.
On the ensuing Palm Springs inbound, Shepard — an all-Western Division first-team honoree as a linebacker in football — went horizontal diving for a steal and successfully broke up the pass. But with 0.2 seconds left, one-tenth of a second under the minimum allowance for a possible catch-and-shoot, it was already over.
Palm Springs came into the game ranked 37th in the state by MaxPreps.com.
The Indians’ only loss was to Peninsula of Palos Verdes, 51-49, a game in which incoming Cal Poly signee Reese Morgan erupted for 32 points.
Palm Springs coach Dennis Zink said Friday’s game was just the second close one his team has been engaged in all year.
“It doesn’t get better than that,” Zink said.
“Arroyo Grande did an excellent, excellent job of game planning.
“All the credit goes to A.G.,” Zink added. “They’re a very, very well-coached team, with very, very good, tough kids.”
Vanderveen and Gomez both finished with a game-high 17 points, and Andrew Hogue added seven for the Eagles. Gray and Dillon Floyd each finished with 14 to lead Palm Springs.
About a half-hour after the game, Eagles players came out of the locker room to boisterous cheers from family and friends who had stayed on the floor.
Glanville choked up while praising his team for the effort.
“I’m just so proud of our kids,” Glanville said. “I just love the way they handle themselves and the way they compete. And no one really knows our players off the floor like I do. I see them as students every day, and they’re just A-plus human beings, and in the end, that’s more important than any basketball game.
“Yeah, it would’ve been fun to win this tonight, but I’m just so happy with who they are as young men. I just told them how proud I was of them.”