Behind Scott Taylor and Derek Jensen’s timely, sharp shooting, the Gavilan College men’s basketball team orchestrated a second-half comeback from down by 13 with 12 minutes left to up by two and on the verge of Coast Conference victory No. 1 against visiting Hartnell on Friday night. However, an unfathomable 3-pointer and a pair of Panthers free throws carried Hartnell to a 76-73 win over the Rams.
With the game tied and less than one minute remaining, Panthers guard Michael Salazar beat the shot clock with a deep trey – his only made bucket of the game – to push the Panthers back in front of the surging Rams, 74-71. Andrew Belonia made it 74-73 with six seconds to play. A quick foul sent Connor Brady to the foul line where he converted both free throws. Gavilan earned a good look from the top of the arc for Jensen, who had been red-hot all half. His 3-point shot at the buzzer dipped in and rattled out.
After a poor, turnover filled first half left the Rams down 43-30, a different Gavilan team – ramped up defense, limited turnovers and a dialed-in Taylor and Jensen – created a much more even second half.
Taylor, on 5-of-6 shooting, including 4-of-5 from downtown, scored 14 of his team-high 20 points in the second half. Jensen contributed 11 of his 13 points during the comeback, which included an 11-2 run that cut into the deficit 59-54. Five consecutive points from Jensen and a Belonia rebound and put back tied it a 66-66. Jensen gave the rams the lead for the first time since the 15:44 mark of the first half with two free throws. The lead changed hands three more times over the final three minutes before Salazar’s back-breaker.
The Rams have two more tries to get their Coast conference win – at Cabrillo on Wednesday and at home for the season finale Friday against West Valley.
Jordan Ramirez contributed nine points and Matt Johnson 10 for the Rams.
A 3-pointer each from Ramirez and Taylor, plus five more points from Johnson propelled the Rams out to an 11-3 advantage five minutes into the game. Turnovers (14 in the first half) and Hartnell’s Relius Thomas soon dissolved that advantage, as the Panthers went on a 23-4 run spanning seven minutes. Thomas finished the half with 18 of his game-high 28 points and the Rams were down by 13 at the break.
• The Christopher High girls basketball team capped its Monterey Bay League championship run with a 39-33 win at Watsonville on Friday, allowing the Cougars to claim the outright title. The MBL postseason tournament is next.
• Palma clinched the Tri-County Athletic League title with a 66-33 triumph over Gilroy High on Friday night. Charles Walker led all Mustangs scorers with 13 points.
• The Gilroy High boys soccer team won its third straight TCAL soccer match 1-0 at Alvarez on Friday. Jonathan Diaz de Leon had Gilroy’s goal in the second half.