With 6.4 seconds left, Jake Buchman had horrible flashback he couldn’t get out of his head.
“The only thing going through my head was not again, not again,” he said.
The Adelson School senior knew what was coming, because he had seen it before. Up by a point with time expiring, he knew The Meadows would give the ball to senior Jake Epstein and if he had an open shot, he would make it. He did just that against the Lions on Jan. 24, drilling a 3-pointer at the buzzer to win by a point.
Buchman wouldn’t let it happen Friday. He defended Epstein’s attempt nearly flawlessly, and the Lions held on to beat the Mustangs 45-44 in the Class 2A Southern League semifinals at Durango.
Adelson School will play Agassi Prep for the championship at 2 p.m. Saturday at Durango. Both teams have clinched a berth in the state tournament.
“That was stressful, but that was fun,” Adelson School coach Kurt McGinnis said. “At the end of the third quarter, they all looked me in the eye and I knew we could pull through.”
protecting a 45-44 lead that Lions’
Junior Ben Elharrar, who had only attempted 3-pointers until the final minute of the game, drove to the lane and tossed in a reverse-layup that evaded Epstein’s arm and fell in to give the Lions (19-4) a 45-42 lead with 40 seconds left.
“I did what I was meant to do: score,” Elharrar said.
The Lions had a chance to go up three with 6.4 seconds left when Elharrar went to the free-throw line, but he missed the first shot and The Meadows rebounded. The Mustangs (15-11) called a timeout to set up their full-court play, and Buchman knew what was going to happen next.
“I was mad at myself because I pride myself on how great of a free-throw shooter I am,” Elharrar said. “But I knew my teammates would have my back and that’s why (Buchman) had that stop at the end.”
Buchman was tasked with defending The Meadows’ star, and he did so to perfection. Epstein, who started from under his own hoop, struggled to get around Buchman, and was forced to throw up a contested three-quarter-court shot as time expired. The ball fell harmlessly to the left of the hoop.
“My only thing was waste as much time as possible in the backcourt until there was a few seconds left,” Buchman said. “Thankfully he missed and we get to go on.”
Between Epstein’s 30 points and his assists that led to five more, he had a direct hand in 80 percent of his team’s scoring. He was the only Mustang to score in the second quarter, and at the midpoint of the third, accounted for 24 of the team’s 28 points.
Buchman led Adelson School with 16 points, and junior Miles Hagan had 11 points and 11 rebounds. But it was the 5-foot-7 Elharrar that was the hero. He finished with eight points, including the team’s final basket and a 3-pointer with five seconds left in the third quarter to tie the game after The Meadows took a brief lead.
The title game could be another classic. The Lions fell to Agassi Prep 64-61 at home on Jan. 12, then beat the Stars (19-3) on their home court 56-55 in the regular-season finale.
“We know we’re not done and we have a long way to go,” Buchman said. “This is my third time going to regionals and I haven’t been successful yet.
“This is my senior year, so me and my teammates are doing everything possible to finally get this done.”
Agassi Prep 64, Needles 32 — Najeeb Muhammad led all scorers with 20 points as the Stars doubled up the Mustangs in the Class 2A Southern Legue semifinals.
Needles got off to a quick start, leading 7-5 early in the first quarter before Agassi Prep started rolling. The Stars scored the next 15 points to begin pulling away, then went on a 12-2 run in the third quarter to erase any hopes of a comeback. After three quarters, Agassi Prep led 43-19.
The Stars did it without much help from ace sharpshooter Akeemis Williams, who averaged 19.2 points per game in the regular season and shot 50.5 percent from 3-point range. He scored just seven points Friday, and was 1 of 5 from beyond the arc.
His teammates picked him up, as Aiden Olivas drilled four 3-pointers and finished with 17 points. Zhaccai Smith added 10 points for Agassi Prep.
Trey Tsosie led Needles (19-10) with seven points.