High School Sports

Prep Boys Basketball: Norris leads Atascadero into the quarterfinals

Troy Norris has had big games before, but none quite like the one he had Friday night.

The junior point guard for the Atascadero High boys basketball team scored 14 of his game-high 27 points in the fourth quarter of a dramatic 56-53 win over Cathedral of Los Angeles in the second round of the CIF-Southern Section Division 4AA playoffs at Ewing Gym.

“This is, by far, his best performance,” Greyhounds coach Jerry Tamelier said.

Down 50-46 with about a minute-and-a-half remaining, Norris hit a 3-pointer to bring the Greyhounds within one. Soon after, he stole the ball from a Cathedral player and sped up court for a layup that put Atascadero in front 51-50 with 47 seconds left. He wasn’t done there, though.

After the Phantoms’ Aaron Almario, a 6-foot-7 power forward, converted a three-point play to put Cathedral up 53-51, Norris sank yet another 3, this time with 23 seconds left, to seize back the lead.

The Phantoms’ final offensive try rimmed out, forcing them to foul Norris, who proceeded to knock down a pair of free throws with 11 seconds to go to, providing the final score.

“You just have to play great to win a game like that, with all that pressure,” Tamelier said.

As soon as the buzzer sounded, Atascadero students mobbed the 5-10 Norris on the floor, hoisting him above their shoulders before Tamelier stepped in to usher his players to the sideline for post-game handshakes with a devastated Cathedral.

Atascadero (19-8), the bracket’s No. 11 seed, advanced to Tuesday night’s quarterfinals, where it will face No. 3 seed Inglewood, which beat unseeded Tahquitz 78-55.

Norris, who entered averaging team bests of 15.7 points and 2.8 steals per game, hit a game-winning, halfcourt 3 in a similarly thrilling 63-62 PAC 7 win over Righetti at the same site only weeks ago.

“It feels good every time,” Norris said, beaming, when asked to compare the two late-game moments.

Fellow Greyhounds guard Matt O’Connell also was instrumental from the perimeter for Atascadero, drilling four 3s to finish with 16 points.

Cathedral (17-12), an at-large team from the Del Rey League that entered as the No. 5 seed, came into the game boasting a considerable size advantage, with 6-9 center Frankie Eteuati, who finished with 15 points (six below his season average) and Almario, who had 14.

The tandem played a big role in Atascadero committing 20 fouls on the night, but the Greyhounds’ interior rotation of Weston Walker, Taylor Hendrickson and Sean Slavin didn’t give up anything easy to the taller duo, which shot a combined 19 of the Phantoms’ 22 free throws.

Atascadero also kept the rebounding disadvantage to 27-23.

“Defensively, we competed really, really well on those big guys,” Tamelier said. “The thing I was really pleased about was that we didn’t have to resort to zone. We kind of manned up to them and didn’t try to compensate for size.”

The Greyhounds opened the game on a 7-0 run, leading 19-11 after the first quarter.

“We thought, ‘We can win this; we can pull off this big upset,’ ” Norris said of the team’s confidence boost from the early surge.

In the second, however, Cathedral began to assert its size, tying the contest at 30 at halftime. The second-quarter trend carried over into the third, as the Phantoms established their largest lead, at 41-31, midway through the period.

Steadily, however, Atascadero fought its way back, tying the affair at 42 on a Sam McMillan layup with just under seven minutes left.

With 6:40 to play, Eteuati was whistled for a technical foul stemming from a near-altercation at halfcourt, as players from both sides had to be separated.

“It got a little emotional there, but we stood our ground and didn’t get any technicals,” Tamelier said. “It could’ve gone that way.”

Norris took advantage, hitting both ensuing shots from the charity stripe.

“We have a pretty level-headed team,” Norris said. “We don’t get caught up, really.”

Cathedral also hurt itself by missing two dunks down low that likely would’ve been easy layups.