Nathan Mollat/Daily Journal
The Hillsdale boys’ basketball twice left the door open to let El Camino steal a win in a second-round, Central Coast Section Division III matchup Thursday night in San Mateo.
But each time, El Camino could not bust through.
Justin Ono drained a bucket to put the Knights up 56-55 with 1:04 left to play. With 21 seconds left, Brian Houle missed the front end of a 1-and-1 from the free throw line, but the Colts could not take advantage as a Christian Santos jumped from the corner came up short. Ono grabbed the rebound and was fouled with 2.4 seconds to play, but he also missed the front end of a 1-and-1.
El Camino grabbed the rebound and called a timeout with 2.2 seconds to play, but Brandon Gip’s three-quarter 3-point attempt came up well short and the Knights escaped with the win.
“We’ve been on the other side of those,” said Hillsdale coach Brett Stevenson. “It felt good to get that one.”
Hillsdale (13-12), the No. 8 seed, will face top-seeded Mills (21-6) in a quarterfinal game at 6:15 Saturday at Foothill College.
The game was as entertaining as they come as neither team led by more than a few points. It got off to a rip roarin’ start as the teams combined for 38 points in the first quarter. With the score tied at 6, Hillsdale went on a 7-0 run, with Ryan Nurre doing the damage. He scored off a drive for a layup, then stole a pass and went in for another layup before draining a 3 to put the Knights up 13-6 with 4:36 left in the opening period.
El Camino (9-16) came right back with a 9-0 run. DJ Idolyantes drained a 3, Gip knocked down a jumper, Justin Shuen came up with a steal and layup and Gip then closed the run with another jumper and the Colts led 15-13 with 3:17 to play in the first.
At the end of the opening quarter, El Camino held an 18-16 lead.
The teams would go back and forth at other like that all game long.
“It’s a game of runs. Every time we’d get [the lead] to four or six, we thought it should go to 12,” Stevenson said.
But the Colts would come right back.
“We noticed in some scouting film against Aragon, every time it looked like Aragon was going to put [El Camino] away, they would come right back,” Stevenson said. “[The Colts] are active with their press and it leads to their runs. We didn’t handle it very well.”
Hillsdale’s Adam Schembri tied the score at 18 off a fastbreak layup to open the second quarter, but a bucket from William Vu put the Colts back ahead. An Elijah Jones-Haley bucket underneath pushed the Colts lead to 22-18 with 4:30 left in the quarter.
Hillsdale had its chances and got great looks in the second quarter, but the Knights could not get their shots to fall.
Nurre, who finished with 13 points, came up with a steal and layup, was fouled on the play and hit the free throw to complete the three-point play and the Knights closed to one, 22-21.
“Nurre was unbelievable tonight,” Stevenson said. “Without him, we’re not in that game with two minutes to play. Whenever [the Colts] started making runs, he made a big play defensively to stop them.”
Houle then knocked down a 3 to put Hillsdale up 24-22 and a layup from Adam Cook gave the Knights a 26-24 advantage at halftime.
Hillsdale opened the third quarter with a 7-3 run to open up a 33-27 lead and by the time Matt Stucke knocked down a baseline jumper with three seconds left in the third, the Knights had a 40-35 lead going into the final eight minutes.
That lead was shortlived. El Camino came out on fire to start the fourth quarter. A Jones-Haley bucket sparked an 8-0 run to start the quarter, as the Colts came up with a pair of steals for a two easy layups. When Gip knocked down a shot with 6:47 to play, the Colts enjoyed a 43-40 lead.
A Schembri 3, however, tied the game at 43 and the teams went back and forth for the rest of the game. El Camino’s last lead came at the 1:18 mark when Idolyantes knocked down his second 3 of the night to put the Colts up 55-54, setting up the last frantic final seconds.
In addition to Nurre’s 13 points, Schembri also had 13, Houle added nine and Ono chipped in with eight.
“We’re more balanced (scoring), for sure,” Stevenson said.
El Camino was led by Gip, who scored a game high 23 points. Jones-Haley added 11, but Idolyantes, who had been carrying the Colts all season long, was held to just six points on two 3-pointers.
“We just tried to locate him out of our zone. Tried to get a body on him,” Stevenson said. “Someone else could beat us, but he wasn’t going to beat us.”