For the Santa Barbara High boys’ basketball team a stellar 2018-19 season will always be tainted by what could have been.
The Dons battled back from an early deficit and took command of the game in the fourth quarter only to falter in the final moments of a 57-55 loss to Palm Springs in the CIF-SS Division semifinals on Saturday night.
“I’m really proud of them. They just kept battling. They kept playing hard and made plays that kept us in the game when we were down,” said Santa Barbara coach David Bregante. “A couple plays here and there and we would have won it.”
Santa Barbara entered the fourth quarter trailing 47-44, but scored the first five points of the period capped off by a Bryce Warrecker three-pointer that gave the Dons a 49-47 lead with just over four minutes remaining in the game.
Warrecker drained four three-pointers in the game and finished with a game-high 21 points.
“I’m just really bummed that I couldn’t pull through with these guys. I love this group,” Warrecker said. “I get to comeback next year and I’ll for sure remember this for the rest of my life.”
The final two minutes of the game featured clutch performances by both teams. Aiden Douglas knocked down a three-pointer with just under two minutes remaining, but Damien King responded with a stare down three-pointer that evened the score at 52-52 at the 1:32 mark of the fourth quarter.
Douglas knocked down another three-pointer with 1:20 to play, but an offensive rebound by Parker Hunt and kick out to Elijah Goad resulted in a three-pointer that tied the score at 55 with 50 seconds remaining.
The Dons squandered their ensuing possession and Palm Springs held the ball for a final shot. King cut back door and Parker hunt found him with a bounce pass. Jackson Hamilton read the play and slid over to protect the basket. King’s layup sailed over the rim and was rebounded by Douglas.
After the action occurred at the basket a whistle blew from beyond the three-point line and the official signaled a block, essentially overruling the baseline officials no call. King calmly knocked down both free throws to give Palms Springs a 57-55 lead with 4.1 seconds remaining.
Palms Spring had a foul to give and gave it shortly after the ensuing inbounds to Stephen Davis, giving the Dons 2.5 seconds to get up a shot. Davis collected the ball along the base line and put up a desperation heave under immense pressure that fell short as time expired.
“It’s not one play. You could go back and find a play in every single quarter in a game like this,” Bregante said. “It was a great season. We’ll learn from it. Guys are coming back and we’ll get better and hopefully we’ll be there again.”
Santa Barbara will now wait and see if they will earn a berth into the Division 3 state tournament after next weekends CIF Championship games.