Who hasn’t thought of sinking the game-winning 3-pointer in the final second?
“Definitely, as a little kid, I think everyone in the driveway counts down with their friends — 5, 4, 3,” Cal Poly senior guard Dylan Royer said. “You imagine that shot.
“Honestly, this year, I probably haven’t imagined it at all because I’m just thinking of the next play.”
And with just three seconds left in Saturday’s BracketBuster game against visiting Loyola Marymount, who of the 2,150 at Mott Gym envisioned Mustangs head coach Joe Callero would draw up a 3-pointer for the final shot while his team was just 1 of 17 from long range?
Callero sent Royer, the former Morro Bay High star, around three screens to take the last shot, and with 0.7 seconds left, Royer drained the game-winner from the left wing, and the Lions’ desperation heave across the court dropped harmlessly in a 63-60 nonconference victory for Cal Poly (13-12).
Royer finished with 12 points and went 2 for 7 from 3-point range. The rest of the team combined to go 0 for 11 on 3s.
“We were taking good shots,” Royer said. “Some games they just don’t go in.
“Maybe a couple early in the game were a little rushed, but later in the game, they were all good shots. They just didn’t go in.”
Royer’s last look was perfect. His defender, Loyola Marymount guard Taylor Walker, dodged one screen from Chris O’Brien but lost his balance on the second one from Cal Poly center Brian Bennett.
By the time Walker had to go around Chris Eversley on the third screen, he had slipped completely to the floor and Royer got a moment of daylight to get off a fadeaway.
It might have been the play of the game by Bennett, even though it didn’t account for any of his
career-high 23 points on 9-of-11 shooting from the field. Bennett also had a team-high four rebounds, and Eversley added 13 points in his return to the lineup after missing two weeks with a high ankle/tendon sprain.
“My teammates did a great job of getting me the ball and putting the confidence in me early,” Bennett said. “I just came out there more aggressive.”
The victory pushed Cal Poly’s home winning streak to 10 straight games.
The Mustangs haven’t lost at Mott Gym since a 76-67 defeat against Fresno State in the third game of the season.
Cal Poly’s Big West Conference home winning streak dating back to last season still stands at 12.
“It’s definitely important,” Royer said, “and I think the crowd support was great. The more we win, the more the fans come out. It’s just like an ongoing thing. Every game you can count on it, and I think that’s been huge for us as a confidence-builder. Eventually we’re going to take it in the road.”
Getting his first start since a double-overtime loss at UC Santa Barbara on Jan. 19, Jamal Johnson was scoreless but handed out a career-high eight assists with no turnovers.
Anthony Ireland led the Lions (8-20) with 19 points, Walker had 12 points, Alex Osborne added 11 and Ashley Hamilton had seven points and a game-high 10 rebounds.
Sitting out since hurting his left leg late in the first half of a victory over UC Davis on Feb. 9, Eversley was scoreless in the first half after attempting just two shots, and Callero said he was playing at about 90 percent healthy.
He missed only two full games, but it seemed to take Eversley some time to get back up to speed. He got there after the break.
Eversley opened the second half with a basket in the paint, and he was 6 for 9 from the field in the second half alone, converting a three-point play with 1:27 left to tie the score at 60.
“Second half,” Callero said, “he looked better. He had some drives to the hoop. His explosiveness was there. His confidence was back.”