Rob Berwick couldn’t have dreamed of a better opportunity.
Here was his chance to send his Atascadero High boys basketball team’s championship game against Montclair into overtime in its own annual Atascadero Tournament on Thursday afternoon. The sophomore guard got a nice cross-court pass, set his feet just beyond the 3-point line on the right wing and fired.
Montclair coach Bill Blades thought the shot was going in, which would have been bad news for the Cavaliers, whose 6-foot-7 center Larry Nakiso had just fouled out moments earlier. Berwick’s attempt to save the game bounced high off the rim with less than 10 seconds to go, though the Greyhounds went on to botch one last possession before losing 60-57.
This has happened before. The Cavaliers edged Atascadero 68-65 in last year’s tournament final despite a 26-point outburst from then-senior guard Troy Norris, the two-time Tribune County Player of the Year.
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Atascadero again came close to beating the Cavaliers in this year’s tournament, even with a roster full of sophomores and juniors and playing without out 6-foot-4 center Will Mehring, who was out of town. Berwick, a perimeter-shooting threat, put up 24 points to go along with fellow all-tournament sophomore guard Connor Kim’s 15. Hayden Mislavsky, one of just four Atascadero seniors, added 12.
Even Blades said his Cavaliers were lucky to finish the day with a 13-0 record, the best start in Montclair school history.
“Next year, you guys are going to be scary,” Blades told Atascadero coach Jerry Tamelier well after Ewing Gym had emptied.
The Greyhounds (9-4) aren’t looking that far ahead. They’re focused on this season, which is unusually filled with high expectations after Norris guided Atascadero to a 25-4 overall record, 12-0 in the PAC 7 and a semifinal appearance in the CIF Southern Section Division 4AA playoffs.
Judging by their tournament run, which also included wins over Lompoc and Corona del Mar, the Greyhounds should be just fine when the PAC 7 opens on Wednesday at San Luis Obispo (6-5). They got good practice against Montclair, which boasted tournament MVP Devyn Sampson (24 points, 13 rebounds) and all-tournament member Kevin Fregoso (12 points, seven assists).
“We were with them until the very end,” Tamelier said of his Greyhounds. “It was a good effort and hopefully it was a confidence-builder as we move into league.”
Atascadero was down by 7 points before the Greyhounds issued an unstoppable 8-0 surge in the final 1 minute, 16 seconds of the second quarter to take a 33-32 halftime lead.
Montclair was ahead 55-50 with 5 minutes left, but Atascadero kept pushing back with clutch shots from Berwick, who scored seven points in the fourth quarter, and the Greyhounds nailed 4 of 6 free throws to end the game.
The Greyhounds cut the deficit to 57-56 with a Berwick driving bucket, but Montclair responded with a putback from Sampson and a free throw by all-tournament member Jody Smith (seven points). Berwick then drew Nakiso’s final foul and hit the first of a one-and-one at the line to make it 60-57 at the 17-second mark.
Atascadero had a few more chances after Montclair missed its last four free throws, including Berwick’s 3-point attempt from the right wing. The Greyhounds attempted four 3-pointers in the final 2 minutes.
Again, Blades felt his Montclair team got lucky and escaped with a win.
“They got some great players, well-coached,” he said of the Greyhounds. “Fortunately for us, (the shots) didn’t go in, because we’ve gone into overtime.”
The Greyhounds had another try at tying the game after Montclair’s Josh Sanchez missed his two fouls shots with 8 seconds left, but they fumbled the ball at midcourt.
“At the end there,” said Kim, one of Atascadero’s guards, “we were looking for a last-second shot but we couldn’t get the ball off the floor.”
The PAC 7 hasn’t started yet, so the Greyhounds will have more opportunities.
Also at the Atascadero Tournament:
Paso Robles (5-8) defeated Lompoc 50-31 in the seventh place game.
Josh Wilson-Murry and Travis Robinson had 12 points each and Kyle Rivera added 11 for the Bearcats.
After holding a 30-19 advantage at the break, Paso Robles outscored the Braves 20-12 in the second half.
Templeton fell to Corona del Mar 67-41. The Eagles (4-11) shot 17 of 49 from the field in the game, and were outscored 35-22 in the second half.
Evan Peterson had 13 points, Casey Dakin had nine and Cameron Silzer had seven for Templeton.
Andy Garretson, who finished with four points, was named to the all-tournament team.
At the Estancia Coast Classic:
San Luis Obispo shook off a five-game losing streak to defeat host Estancia 58-42 in day three of the tournament in Costa Mesa.Matt Moore had 23 points, including 15 from behind the 3-point line, to lead the Tigers.
San Luis Obispo plays again today at 1 p.m. against Schuller in their final game of the consolation bracket.
At Orange Holiday Classic:
Matt Wilkomm scored 11 points and three Eagles scored seven points each, but Arroyo Grande lost to Servite 57-44 in their final game of the tournament.
At Merv Lopes Classic in Honolulu:
Mission Prep advanced to the third round of the tournament with a 51-34 win over Brentwood (British Columbia).Zach Allmon had 13 points and 23 rebounds, Connor Woolpert also added 12 and Andy Rowley had nine points and six assists for the Royals (10-3).