(Seguin) - Santa Rosa's Ryan Perez caught an inbound lob pass in midair just outside the lane with 0.53 seconds remaining and banked in a shot at the buzzer to hand Marion a season ending 37-35 loss in the 3A Region IV semifinals Friday night at Goldie Harris Gym in Seguin.
Marion had just tied the game on senior point guard Creet Rabenaldt's fourth three-pointer with 13 seconds to play. Santa Rosa called a timeout with eight seconds left, Jonah Agado missed a potential go-ahead three from the right baseline with the clock winding down, and the game appeared to be headed for overtime when Fabian Guerrero secured the rebound for the Bulldogs.
A Santa Rosa player got his hands on the ball and tied up Guerrero, the closest official blew the whistle with less than a second to play, and the possession arrow pointed in the Warriors' direction. Santa Rosa's Jay Guerra inbounded the ball on the right baseline, and the 6'4" Perez ran his defender, 6'5" Jackson Allen, into a perfectly executed screen by teammate Adam Cavasos. Guerrero, listed at 5'10", picked up Perez on the switch, and Guerra lofted a perfect pass just over his reach to an airborne Perez outside the left block for the game winner.
The buzzer beater ended the deepest playoff run in Marion boys basketball history and halted a 19-game winning streak that dated back to mid-December. Head coach Jon Allen says his players can hold their heads high after a season that included a 14-0 run to the District 27-3A championship, three playoff wins, and a final record of 29-7.
"I told them to celebrate, and not let that play define them as a team, or as our season," Allen said. "Our season was too great, and these guys are too great to let that one play take away from what we did this year. It was a great year for Marion basketball, for sure."
Marion started hot and jumped out to a 9-2 lead in the first quarter, but Perez closed the period with nine straight points to put Santa Rosa in front 11-9. Perez hit three threes and scored all 11 of the Warriors points in the opening quarter.
Perez drained two more threes in the second period, Agado burried one as well, and Cavazos scored four points off the bench to help Santa Rosa win the quarter 13-9 and take a 24-18 lead into halftime.
Santa Rosa's AB Lozoya, who pumped in 40 points in the regional quarterfinals against Corpus Christi-London, was scoreless in the first half in large measure because Marion's 6'4" Jacob Wallace smothered the 5'2" point guard and never gave him room to shoot. Lozoya finished the game without a field goal, and ended up with just three points on six free throw attempts.
Marion suffocated the Warriors defensively in the third quarter, holding them scoreless for the first six minutes of the period and eventually erasing the halftime deficit to tie the contest at 26-all. Agado drilled a contested three from beyond NBA range just before time expired to put Santa Rosa up 29-26 going into the fourth period.
Rabenaldt led Marion with 14 points and hit four threes for the second straight game. The 5'6" senior averaged 16.5 points in four playoff games and surpassed double figures in each one after scoring at a 9.2 clip during the regular season.
When the Bulldogs desperately needed a three to tie the game on their final possession, Allen never blinked about designing the play for Rabenaldt.
"I knew if anybody was going to make it, and have the confidence to make it, it would be him," the coach said. "Without hesitation, he takes the shot, and did exactly what we wanted on that play. He's a great competitor. I don't know where we would have been without him this year."
Wallace ended up with 10 points, Jackson Allen six, and Guerrero five. Defensively, Marion held a Santa Rosa team averaging 80 points in the playoffs to less than half of that clip, but Coach Allen says they didn't capitalize on enough scoring opportunities to turn that effort into a win.
"We did everything right excpet score a few more points," Allen said. "Our shooting was not where it needed to be tonight. We had open looks - a lot of open looks - and just didn't knock them down, so to me that's the difference. I thought our defense was spectacular, and holding three (Lozoya) to three points, all on free throws, Jacob did as good a job as anybody in the world could do on that kid, and just everybody, it was just a great team effort."
Friday marked the final game in the varsity basketball careers of Marion seniors Rabenaldt, Guerrero, Jacob Berry, and Bobby Kelly. Starters Allen, Wallace, Zach Goodwin, and Brevin Wilson all return next year, as does regular season starter Tyler Bridges, who missed the playoffs with a knee injury.