The Gavilan Rams basketball team has seen its share of tight games this year. Wednesday night’s Coast Conference matchup with the visiting De Anza Dons was more of the same.
Gavilan, which had played in 10 games decided by 10 points or less coming in, lost 74-72 to De Anza, dropping its record to 5-6 in the close ones.
“It’s our season in a nutshell right here,” said Gavilan assistant coach Mike Baumgartner.
“The key to winning close games is playing at a game speed in practice,” said coach Chris Shoemaker. “We didn’t do that this week. It is inconceivable to think that you can operate in pressure situations when you haven’t practiced that way.”
San Benito High grad Broc Sondgroth, who had 10 points for the Rams (9-12, 1-5 conference), hit a pair of free throws to tie it at the end of regulation. He went on to bury a 3-pointer with 13.5 seconds left in overtime to get the Rams to within 73-72.
On a blown play in the final seconds of overtime, after De Anza hit a free throw, Sondgroth got off a good look from the top right side of the arc but couldn’t get it to fall.
“He has been solid in everything that I have asked and has led by example,” Shoemaker said. “He leads vocally, so I have tremendous confidence in him.”
On the play before, De Anza coach Mike Riley tried to set up a double inbound pass to get his best free throw shooter the ball. It fooled everyone in attendance except Shoemaker, who was very familiar with the ruse after seeing it during his playing career at De Anza 10 years ago under Riley.
After a timeout, De Anza (3-15, 2-4 conference) got to the line with a different free throw shooter, who made one of two.
“I told them if they read the play then we’d call a timeout because we had two timeouts,” Riley said.
Matt Jones, who played for Gavilan before sitting out a couple years, had all three of De Anza’s field goals in the overtime frame and finished with a team-high 20 points.
Gavilan was led by Adrian Zamora’s 25 points and Jon Morrison’s 16, which included a two-handed jam in overtime off a pass from Curtis Lilly.
With 1:50 left in regulation, Gavilan was down 64-60. Zamora had a tip-in to narrow the gap and with 24.3 seconds left, Sondgroth soared high in the air to grab a defensive rebound and was pushed from behind. He went to the line with the chance to tie.
“I come out expecting to make those,” Sondgroth said. “I practice free throws every day.”
Early in the second half, Lilly was elbowed in the nose, drawing a charge. Not wanting to disappoint his parents, who came from back East to see hime play, Lilly re-entered 10 minutes later after icing his nose.
During his absence, Gavilan had good contributions from Andre Hays and Scott McLeod.
The largest deficit in the game by either team was when Gavilan held a 17-10 edge early in the first quarter. At halftime, the game was tied at 29-29. Gavilan came out early in the game looking to establish its outside shooting. The Rams shot their way to a 17-10 lead early in the first quarter, but the Dons pulled back to tie it at 29-29 going into the half
The Rams will begin the second half of their season Friday against San Jose City College, which was 4-1 before their game Wednesday. In their first meeting, Gavilan opened up its conference schedule with an 88-80 loss in overtime.