John Smith hit the winning basket with just five seconds remaining, as the Hoopa Valley boys defeated Head-Royce 46-45 on Monday night and secured a place in next week’s NorCal tournament.
The Warriors led for much of the game, but saw the advantage slip away late as the No. 4 seeded Jayhawks rallied in the fourth quarter.
Trailing by one in the final seconds, however, the Warriors got an inbound pass to George Navarro, who was immediately double teamed.
Navarro then kicked it out to a wide-open Smith, who made no mistake, hitting nothing but net for the go-ahead score.
“It was a huge, huge basket,” Hoopa head coach Tyler Mitchell said.
With the win, the No. 5 Warriors advance to Wednesday night’s North Coast Section Division-V semifinal against top seed Stuart Hall.
The 26-4 Knights are the No. 1 ranked Division-V team in the state, but regardless of the outcome of Wednesday’s game, the Warriors are guaranteed to move on to next week’s NorCal tournament.
And they can thank their late-game execution, something that had been a focus for the players coming into the game.
“We really wanted this game, and they knew what was at stake,” Mitchell said of his players. “The boys wanted to qualify for the NorCal tournament. It’s something we talked about.”
Navarro led another balanced performance from the Warriors, who improved to 22-7 with the win.
The standout senior finished with 17 points, while Wade Nixon added 16, including four 3-pointers.
Smith finished with seven points and a team-high six rebounds.
The Oakland school started the stronger of the two teams and opened up a four-point lead going into the second quarter, but the visitors grew into the game and outscored their opponents 15-6 in the second quarter to take a five-point lead at halftime.
They stretched it to six heading into the fourth quarter before the home team rallied.
The Warriors will now stay down in the Bay Area for Wednesday’s game, which will be played at Kezar Pavilion at 7 p.m.
Ray Hamill writes at humboldtsports.com, where you can read lots more about sports in Humboldt County.