Nathan Mollat/Daily Journal
Trevor Pagaduan goes up for a shot in Aragon's win over Mills.
With 7.2 seconds left in the game and his team up by just a point, Aragon head basketball coach Sam Manu looked over to his scorekeeper in disbelief.
“I said, ‘Does this look familiar to you?’”
It’s was Manu’s worst nightmare all over again. A year ago in a similar scenario against Burlingame, the Dons had an inbound play that went terribly wrong when a home run ball to Alex Manu hit the gymnasium’s center divider and resulted in a turnover.
The Panthers went on to win that game.
This time, against Mills — another time that the Dons enjoy basketball games of the cardiac variety — coach Manu called for the same play to try and kill the seven seconds standing between his team and the exciting win.
But the ball found the divider again, giving Mills the ball and a chance to stun the Dons ... again.
Yes, rewind the clock to last season and Robert Nolan’s shot with 1.2 seconds left in the game is still very fresh in the collective memory of the Dons. And in 2014, the guard got another opportunity to shock Aragon when he managed to get off a potential game-winner.
But Nolan’s shot wasn’t meant to be and the Dons held on to win 57-56 in a game that had more swings than a kindergarten playground. Aragon led after one, trailed by three at the half, went up eight at the of three but found themselves down by one with less than two minutes left in the game.
But they got a huge 3-pointer from Toby Liebergesell and a bonkers, no-look feed from Alex Manu down the stretch to pick up their second league win.
“We didn’t have a solution for their two bigs early on,” coach Manu said. “They were eating us alive. They play such a great zone defensively. We put Alex in the middle of that zone and let him facilitate from there. The team feeds off of him not really offensively, but as a whole. That’s a nice little help for us because Mills’ zone can be very suffocating.”
The Mills defense really went to work in the second quarter after Kevin Hahn knocked down a trio of treys in the first to fuel Aragon’s early 19-11 lead. But come the second quarter, Nolan found his stroke. He and Tyler Wright combined for all of Mills’ 25 points in the second period. The Vikings’ ability to limit Aragon to just 5 of 13 shooting in the period allowed them to take a 36-33 lead into recess.
But it was Aragon who used a bit of defense in the third to get them going. Huge was the play of Keith Samujh, who spent all of the first half on the bench.
“He came up to me at halftime and said, ‘Coach, I think I can guard 33 (Marquis Adkins),” coach Manu said. “He’s shorter than him, but we’re short at the center position. He plays a bit of football and he used that to his advantage there.”
Samujh’s defense won’t show up on the stat line, but it was big considering that Mills went from a team that shot 68 percent in the second quarter, to one that went 2 of 11 from the field in the third. Trevor Pagaduan caught a bit of fire in the period, scoring eight points and Aragon led by those eight going into the fourth.
The Vikings got to within two points on an Adkins basket and then tied the game with 2:42 left when Nolan sunk a couple of freebies — that set up the exciting turn of events that finished the game. Wright sank a free throw to give Mills its last lead of the night before Lierbergesell knocked down a 3 near the top of the key to put Aragon up for good.
Alex Manu finished with 18 points and four assists. Paguduan had a nice 11 while Hahn ended the night with those nine points from a hot first quarter.
Nolan led Mills with 22 — good for tops among all scorers for the night. Both teams are now 1-1 in PAL Bay Division play.