There was no set play, no specific individual that was supposed
to take the shot. But coming out of a timeout with 51 ticks
remaining, with basketball’s version of the Prune Bowl knotted at
73-all at Hollister’s Mattson Gym, San Benito forward Cooper
Sepulveda managed to find just enough open space for a straightaway
— almost as if there was a specific play geared around him.
We were just looking for a good shot, just not to force anything
said Sepulveda, whose clutch, momentum-shifting 3-pointer with
35 seconds remaining on Friday night helped lift the Balers past
Gilroy, 79-75, in what was yet another edge-of-your-seat chapter to
the two teams’ storied rivalry.
There was no set play, no specific individual that was supposed to take the shot.
But coming out of a timeout with 51 ticks remaining, with basketball’s version of the Prune Bowl knotted at 73-all at Hollister’s Mattson Gym, San Benito forward Cooper Sepulveda managed to find just enough open space for a straightaway 3-point attempt — almost as if there was a specific play geared around him.
“We were just looking for a good shot, just not to force anything up,” said Sepulveda, whose clutch, momentum-shifting 3-pointer with 35 seconds remaining on Friday night helped lift the Balers past Gilroy, 79-75, in what was yet another edge-of-your-seat chapter to the two teams’ storied rivalry.
Few were sitting when Sepulveda hoisted a 20-footer from just beyond the key, though.
“(Tyler) Rickard drove and sucked them in and made a nice pass,” added Sepulveda, who scored 16 of his team-high 18 points in the second half.
None were perhaps bigger than his go-ahead 3-pointer, though, which vaulted San Benito (7-7, 2-0 TCAL) to a 76-73 lead in the final minute. After Gilroy (8-6, 1-1 TCAL) missed its ensuing 3-point attempt, Baler Jordan Belton added 3 of 4 from the free-throw line to ice the game for San Benito, which snaps a two-game losing streak to the Mustangs.
“It’s a tough one. The tough part about it is that we blew numerous leads,” said Gilroy head coach Matt Tait, whose team appeared to be in control at times, leading by as many as eight points late in the third quarter, and as many as five points midway through the fourth.
“First half, second half, just letting leads evaporate from mental breakdowns,” Tait said, latter adding, “But you’ve got to give it to Hollister. When it came down to it, they hit big shots.”
As did Mustang Cameron Yawary, whose borderline ridiculous 42-point performance on Friday night made a four-point loss even more difficult to swallow for the Gilroy coach.
Matching the number on his jersey, Yawary dropped 21 points apiece in both the first and second half, finishing 13 of 25 from the field and 13 of 14 from the charity stripe, draining 12 in a row at one point from the free-throw line.
It was a career-high for the Mustangs’ leading scorer.
“I got the 3 to start it off, and every time after that I was driving to the hoop and it felt good,” said Yawary, who wound up three points shy of setting the single-game scoring record for the Mustangs, a mark of 45 points owned by Gilroy’s all-time leading scorer, Derek Bruton.
Bruton, who later played at Stanford University, scored 45 points in a game against Seaside in 1985. Then-Gilroy head coach and current San Benito head coach Tracy Carpenter remembers it well.
“They were trying to stop him from getting the record than win,” recalled Carpenter, who coached the Mustangs from 1982-92.
“But Yawary was fabulous. We just flat-out could not stop him,” Carpenter added. “We denied. We switched. We played zone. No matter what we did, we just couldn’t stop him.”
The Gilroy guard was hot from just about everywhere on the court. Although he made three 3-pointers, Yawary was the key to Gilroy’s dribble-drive offense, and, despite his size, did most of his work in the paint, either pulling up for a short-range jumper or drawing the shooting foul.
“Our game plan was just to stop Yawary,” said Sepulveda, who, at times, was very much the focus of Gilroy’s trap defense, especially in the first half as double-teams limited the Balers’ leading scorer to just two points.
“I knew I had to get going,” Sepulveda added. “If I started scoring, the lanes would open for a pass.”
After a turnover-riddled and free throw-heavy first half — the two teams combined for 20 turnovers and 28 free-throw attempts in the first two quarters — Gilroy started strong, as Yawary scored seven of the Mustangs’ first nine points of the half, while Chima Ikeme, who finished with 11 points, pocketed four more on offensive put-backs to stake the boys in blue to a 54-46 lead.
But Sepulveda responded by draining the first of his three 3-pointers on the night, while post player Ryan Di Salvo took advantage of defensive mismatches for four more points in the paint, as San Benito briefly took a one-point lead before Yawary nailed a trey to end the third quarter.
“When he’s like that, just give him a side of the floor and rotate around him,” Tait said of Yawary.
Gilroy even held a 64-59 lead with 6:23 remaining before the Balers erased the entire deficit in 47 seconds behind consecutive 3-pointers from Sepulveda and Eric Elayda, who scored 12 points off the bench Friday night.
“That got us back into it,” Carpenter said.
The two teams then went back-and-forth for the remainder of the quarter, with Gilroy controlling as large as a four-point lead with 2:05 left, when a basket by Sepulveda and a pair of free throws by Belton, who was 10 of 11 from the stripe and finished with 14 points, knotted the game at 73-all.
Sepulveda continued his strong second half with the go-ahead trey just 41 seconds later.
“That changed the momentum. Once he hit that 3, it’s hard to come back from that,” Yawary said. “It’s disappointing because we played our hearts out. It came down to the last two minutes … but we have another one at home.
“Hollister played a good game. But it’s always hard to lose like that in the end.”
San Benito’s resiliency isn’t anything new this season. But winning the close game certainly is; of the team’s seven losses, five were within five points or less, including an overtime defeat against Salinas, which is San Benito’s only loss in its last seven games.
“We finally won the close game. We finally did it,” Sepulveda said. “And usually, we try to win on defense. But tonight we did it with offense.”
Gilroy shot 42 percent (26 of 62) from the field, 68 percent (15 of 22) from the free-throw line, and committed 18 turnovers … San Benito shot 49 percent (25 of 51) from the field, 65 percent (22 of 34) from the free-throw line, and committed 18 turnovers … The Mustangs have lost four of their last five games … The Balers last defeated Gilroy on Feb. 10, 2009 … Former Mustang Dallas Jensen is second on the single-game scoring list; he scored 44 points in a game in 1999.
TEAM 1 2 3 4 F
GILR 12 25 22 16 75
SANB 17 20 20 22 79
Gilroy (75): C. Harrell 2-10 0-0 5, D. Jensen 3-4 1-2 10, C. Yawary 13-25 13-14 42, C. Ross 1-2 0-0 2, C. Ikeme 5-14 1-4 11, C. Catanzaro 1-2 0-2 2, J. Lester 0-1 0-0 0, D. Baumgartner 0-2 0-0 0, R. Valentino-Pickett 1-2 0-0 3.
Three-point goals: C. Harrell 1, D. Jensen 3, C. Yawary 3, R. Valentino-Pickett 1.
San Benito (79): J. Belton 2-6 10-11 14, C. Sepulveda 6-14 3-5 18, T. Rickard 2-4 3-6 7, J. Tonascia 2-5 2-4 6, H. Miskin 4-8 0-0 9, E. Elayda 4-6 1-2 12, R. Di Salvo 4-7 3-6 11, M. Breen 1-1 0-0 2.
Three-point goals: C. Sepulveda 3, E. Elayda 3, H. Miskin 1.