With less than four seconds left in a tied contest and a length of the basketball court to cover, there was no surprise that Matt Moore would get the ball.
The way he got it, however, was unexpected.
The San Luis Obispo High senior guard had already drained four 3-pointers in Friday’s Challenge Night game against Washington Prep of Los Angeles in the Mission Prep Christmas Classic. Instead of the Tigers perhaps settling for a half-court shot, Chandler Torres broke a full-court press and slipped a nice bounce pass into the hands of Moore, who drove to the basket for his biggest score of a 17-point night in a thrilling 58-52 win.
The Tigers improved to 5-0. They face Cypress Bay of Florida today at 10:30 a.m. to open the Elite Division of the tournament.
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To get to this point, the Tigers also got an assist from the opposing coach — Washington Prep’s Leonard Johnson.
After Moore’s basket, Johnson called a timeout when his team couldn’t set up a play on the ensuing possession. The problem was, the Generals had no timeouts left. He argued with the scorers table that no one informed him, though he later apologized and blamed himself for the error, saying, “That was my fault.”
“I know that was disappointing for them,” San Luis Obispo coach Jim Thompson said. “But I still thought with the limited time they had left, I thought we’d have been able to stop them.”
In fact, the defense was crucial in a game with 10 3-pointers from the Tigers, who are forced to be long-range shooters because of the team’s height disadvantage. Just like Friday, when they faced a tall and athletic Washington Prep team (5-5).
However, only one General player, guard Jihad Parker (14 points), scored in double digits.
“I thought our defense was up to the task,” Thompson said of his Tigers, who held Washington Prep to just 18 points in the second half after a 34-30 halftime deficit. “We did a great job on a team that was much taller than us. We doubled down low and we contested most shots. I was just real pleased with our defense.”
And San Luis Obispo’s 3-point shooting took care of everything else.
Besides Moore, Blake Shapazian also had a big night from beyond the arc. He had all 13 of his points in the second quarter, including a trio of 3s. Forward Scott Inman contributed nine points, though most of his buckets came inside the paint.
“That’s kind of our game, being a smaller team,” Moore said. “We gotta be able to shoot the ball because inside, it’s tough to score when there are big guys. We definitely rely on our 3-point shots and it was falling for the most part today.”
They fell early as the Tigers jumped out to a 12-0 lead, thanks to Moore’s two 3-pointers in the first quarter. But the Generals fired back, utilizing an inside game to score 10 straight points and take a 16-13 lead after a 3-pointer by Corey Dean Jr.
After that, the game went back and forth. There were eight lead changes, with the Tigers staying ahead for good with the Torres-to-Moore connection with 3.8 seconds left. Moore then hit the two technical foul shots, which were followed by two more free throws from Matthew Delmartini after a foul.
“It was a good victory, because they’re a really good team,” Moore said. “We had to really stay close with them and we finally were able to pull it out.”