Legacy’s Northwest League playoffs scenario for its boys basketball team was simple Thursday night — win and you’re in.
Palo Verde knew its road opponent was desperate for a victory on Senior Night, and the Panthers came to play spoiler.
The Panthers did just that as they defeated the Longhorns 83-78 in a game that saw seven lead changes and four ties.
The loss, combined with a victory by Centennial over Arbor View, knocked the Longhorns (13-13, 7-8) out of the playoffs.
Palo Verde (21-4, 13-1) regained the lead with 1:16 left in the third quarter and held it the rest of the game.
Drew Topham scored six of his 16 points in the fourth quarter against a taller center in Legacy’s Samuel Johnson and made several key blocks and rebounds to seal the win.
“I got a bunch of great passes in the post from D.J. (Stennis) and Moses (Morgan) which enabled me to score,” Topham said. “We’re really looking forward to the playoffs as our team is good and we believe we can go far.”
Added Palo Verde coach Jermone Riley: “Drew did a great job of sealing the post, and our backcourt did an excellent job of dumping it into him.”
Riley likes the way his team is playing heading into the postseason.
“We’ve talked about having no excuses from here on out,” he said. “It’s going to take war to accomplish our goal of a state championship.
“I feel like we need to come out a little more aggressive at the beginning of the game with a sense of urgency.”
Legacy raced to a 23-13 lead after the first quarter behind seven points apiece from Delroy Gibbs, who scored 14 overall, and Terrell Evans, who finished with 13.
Gibbs’ dunk gave Legacy a 40-33 lead with 1:35 left in the second quarter.
Morgan, who finished with 23 points, answered the dunk with a three-point play.
“Moses is an extremely coachable kid, and he’s responded in a big way,” Riley said.
Johnson scored eight of his 13 points in the third quarter to keep the game close.
Davion Pearson, who scored 16 points, and Topham each had 10 in the second half, mainly off assists from Stennis, a senior point guard.
“Drew was really working hard to get into position, and any time your big guy works like that, you want to feed him,” Stennis said.
Junior point guard Ira Haywood led the Longhorns with 19 points, 15 of which came in the second half, including a 3-pointer to make it 81-78 with 27 seconds left.
Morgan answered again with two free throws for the game’s final points with 23 seconds left.
Legacy earned only one victory in its final seven games and will part with five senior players.
“It’s been the same story that has been plaguing us the last three weeks,” Legacy coach Charles Janette said. “We left nine points on the foul line, and we gave up 15 offensive rebounds that they converted into 12 points.
“When you lose by five, that’s the game right there.”