LAFAYETTE — It has been a long time since the energy was as electric in the Centaurus High School basketball gym as it was on Friday night.
Mired in a seven-game losing streak and having lost each of its last two games by four or fewer points, including an overtime loss to Greeley Central in that same gym just one week prior, the Centaurus boys basketball team took its determination to win to an even higher level. With their team playing its second Friday night home game in 2018, the packed gym full of Centaurus fans fed off of that determination and matched the Warriors' energy.
Still, visiting Northridge was as desperate for a victory as the Warriors were and threatened multiple times to ruin the party. Finally after two and a half hours of back-and-forth basketball, the Warriors pulled just far enough ahead in the second overtime period to close out a 61-60 victory.
"It was a Friday night home game and you want those to mean something," Warriors head coach Travis Maron said. "This is what we were kind of hoping to do eventually. We've been banging on the door and banging on the door, and maybe we cracked it open a little bit tonight."
After a dominant first quarter from the Warriors (4-8, 1-3 Northern) and a second-quarter response from the Grizzlies (2-10, 1-4 Northern), Centaurus led 25-22 at halftime. The teams traded leads as the game grew even tighter in the third quarter and the Grizzlies led by one points to start the fourth.
In the free throw-heavy fourth quarter, there were eight ties and six lead changes. Warriors senior Ian McGuire made a layup to put Centaurus ahead 48-47 with 40 seconds left but Northridge's Adrian Costilla made a pair of free throws to hand the lead back to the Grizzlies at 49-48 with 33 seconds left. Both McGuire and Warriors leading scorer Nick Vaver (17.2 ppg) went to the free-throw line in the final 20 seconds and shot a combined 1 for 4 but did manage to send the game into overtime.
Each team scored just two points in the first overtime period and the game went into the second tied 51-51. It was then that Vaver, who struggled all night despite scoring 40 points in the Warriors' previous game and 27 in the game before that, hit a 3-pointer on his team's first possession in double overtime that ignited the Warriors.
"You're not always going to have a game where you hit all your shots so you really just have to figure out what you can do that's going to help your team," Vaver said. "I always try to keep my energy up no matter what's happening so I was really happy to be able to go out there and make a play towards the end of the game to get us all going."
Spurred by Vaver's big shot, the Warriors pulled ahead 59-54 with 1 minute, 4 seconds left. But back-to-back turnovers and a pair of Northridge baskets at the other end cut the Warriors' lead to one with 23 seconds left. The Warriors turned over the ensuing in-bounds pass but senior Matt Shannon took a charge that negated what would have been the go-ahead basket on the Grizzlies' next possession. A frantic multi-turnover sequence followed but the Warriors secured the ball with 10 seconds left and got to the free-throw line where junior Quinn Rubin hit both foul shots to give the Warriors a three-point lead. They intentionally fouled Northridge on the next play, sending them to the line and preventing a potential game-tying 3-point attempt, the held on to collect their first Northern League win of the season.
"I was just thinking about how it's the same as at practice," Rubin said of the pressure-packed moment. "The past couple games, we've really struggled from the free-throw line so we've been practicing it non-stop. We actually devoted a whole practice to just shooting and it showed up tonight."
The Warriors will be back in action on Tuesday when they host Mountain View.
Centaurus 61, Northridge 60 (2OT)
At Centaurus H.S.
NORTHRIDGE (2-10, 1-4)
Lombardelli 1 0-3 2, C. Decker 1 0-0 2, B. Decker 2 1-4 6, Vasquez 4 6-8 15, Vigil 5 2-2 13, Werner 4 8-12 16, Costilla 1 2-2 4, Hermance 1 0-0 2. Totals 19 19-31 60.
CENTAURUS (4-8, 1-3)
Sugianto 0 3-4 3, Shannon 0 0-2 0, McGuire 2 1-2 6, Rubin 1 4-4 6, Medina 2 1-2 5, Vaver 5 1-4 14, Lynch 5 0-0 10, Swain 0 0-0 0, Totel 7 3-4 17. Totals 22 13-22 61.
Score by quarters:Northridge 814151229—60
3-point field goals — Northridge (3): B. Decker, Vasquez, Vigil; Centaurus (4): Vaver 3, McGuire. Total fouls — Northridge 20, Centaurus 23. Fouled out — Lombardelli, McGuire, Lynch, Totel.