PALM SPRINGS, Calif. —
When it was all unraveling for the Pebblebrook (Mableton, Ga.)
boys basketball team, they resorted to hugs. And clapping. And positive behavior.
When they overcame a series of frustrating calls that went against them and the fouling out of beastly 6-foot-9, Georgia-bound post Derek Ogbeide
, with what appeared to be a game-winning driving hoop and bucket by Ty Hudson
with 0.8 seconds to play, they celebrated forcefully, but under control.
And when they fell victim to evidently the game's latest last-second craze – "entice your opponent into a foul 90-feet from the basket baseline play" – that led to two free throws and a 67-66 loss to nationally-ranked Sierra Canyon (Chatsworth, Calif.)
in the finals of the MaxPreps Holiday Classic, it was all just a little too much to endure.
Pebblebrook coach George Washington, a pleasant and personable gent, charged an official after the final buzzer and had to be restrained by of all people, the burly and strong-as-an-ox Ogbeide. Many of his players dropped to their knees and shed tears. All of them shook hands with Sierra Canyon and eventually made their way back to the locker room.
The long 2,100-mile trip from Christmas Eve to New Year's Eve., laced with triumph, new sights, experiences and a win over defending national champion Mater Dei, ended with one bitter and hard-to-swallow defeat.
"I stayed up all night watching two Sierra Canyon games last night," Washington said. "And I doubt I'll get much sleep tonight either, thinking about all the things you can fix."
About 15 minutes after the final buzzer, Washington, with bloodshot eyes, apologized for his outburst, but not his or his team's passion. He didn't sugarcoat that many calls that went against the Falcons came at critical times, but ultimately, he didn't blame the officials for the defeat either.
He did, however, speak candidly about many of the crucial plays, starting with the out of bounds play that enticed the foul.
After Hudson's bucket put Pebblebrook (11-2) up 66-65, Sierra Canyon called timeout and orchestrated a perfect play where inbounder Adam Seiko
ran the baseline to entice Pebblebrook's Thrae Mitchell
to chase him only to run into a screen by Devearl Ramsey
, who sprinted in from the top of the key.
The play was executed the night before in the same gym along the same baseline before by Beverly Hills in the same situation against Cathedral Catholic. Sierra Canyon coach Ty Nichols saw it on Monday as did Washington, who said he warned his team against it in the huddle.
"We told (Mitchell) that the guy was going to flop and to stop before that. Just go to the screen and stop. He did. He stopped but the guy flopped."
Replays show there was contact, Mitchell kept his feet and Ramsey fell in a heap. How much was due to the contact and how much was due to good acting is hard to tell. But clearly, Ramsey made both free throws and Hudson's ensuing desperation 70-foot heave didn't draw iron.
Regardless if a foul should have been called on Mitchell, losing in that matter was hard to swallow.
"That hardest part, when the ids play so hard – both teams played hard – but for it to end like that. … "
Two other critical plays were hard to take too, Washington said.
* Ogbeide's fifth foul with 2:04 to play came off a screen to Jared Harper
r. Ogbeide, who had 14 points and eight rebounds despite being saddled in foul trouble most of the night, seemed away from the fray. "They hadn't called a screen foul all night and (Ogbeide) didn't do anything different," Washington said.
* Washington was called for a technical with 3:15 in the fourth quarter that Sierra Canyon quickly turned into four points to cut a six-point lead to two. "I just asked to speak to him about a call and he T'd me up," Washington said. "Crazy."
In the final two minutes, Washington got his team settled by calling a timeout.
"I just sat them all down, told them to take a deep breath and relax and made them hug each other," he said. We got a little chippy for a minute. That sometimes happens. This time I told them I'm not going to talk basketball, not going to draw up a play. … We came out and scored on the next two possessions."
Then, down by one, with the game on the line, and 5.4 seconds left, Washington called the perfect play to get the Clemson-bound Hudson in isolation. He drove by two defenders and made a tough layup over 6-8 Cody Riley
for his 22nd and 23rd points – and apparently the win.
Washington had called three timeouts the night before against Mater Dei, all that led directly to layups.
"We take a lot of pride in executing our out-of-bound plays," Washington said. "Ty just got the ball over the top of him and it seemed like that was it."
Washington's voice cracked when recalling Hudson's apparent game-winner. When he composed himself, he reminded that Pebblebrook was just a one-win team three years ago, that it reached the state semifinals last year. It's a program on a serious rise, MaxPreps Holiday Classic champion or not.
"We enjoyed the trip," he said. "The host school was great. The event was great. We'd love to have another opportunity to do it again. … There's just some little things to fix. Our goal as a team is to win the state championship and this right here should be motivation, a learning lesson, to take us to the next level."