LOS ANGELES -- Stunning. Unbelievable. For the second time in two weeks, Janae Sharp grabbed a dagger from midair and thrust it into the heart of Buena High School.
With a scant 2.8 seconds left in a tie score — Buena getting the ball because of a controversial offensive foul — a long pass downcourt bounced once. Sharpe grabbed it on the run, took one step and let fly at the free-throw line. Fractions of a second later, the buzzer sounded on history.
Top-seeded Rialto scored a 44-42 victory over second-seeded Buena to win the Southern California Regional championship on Saturday at Galen Center. The Knights (33-3) are headed to the state finals for the first time where they will play Stockton St. Mary’s, a 56-48 winner over Loomis Del Oro.
The Cal State Northridge-bound Sharpe scored eight points. Brittany Walker scored 12 and Summer Webb 10.
Two weeks ago, Sharpe was the hero when she drove through traffic and her shot danced on the rim before falling true as the buzzer sounded in a 55-53 victory over Buena (26-8).
No one questioned the beauty, credibility or enormity of Sharpe’s game-winner in Round 2, but that Rialto even had the ball was open for debate.
“I’ve always preached about being positive, in conducting yourself in a manner to be proud of, but I don’t think my mom would have any problem with me saying that was probably the worst call in high school sports,” said Buena coach David Guenther.
Rialto had taken a 40-35 lead when Brittani Walker scored inside after a nifty pass from Webb, but then went almost four minutes without a point. After Keani Albanez made three of four free throws in the last minute that gave Buena a 42-40 advantage with 21 seconds remaining. Sharpe scored on a drive with 15 seconds remaining.
The score tied at 42-42, Albanez — who led all scorers with 19 points — drove the length of the court. When she collided with Denae Williams, Albanez was whistled for the offensive foul, her fifth.
“I thought it was a great call,” Rialto coach Michael Anderson said.
“I couldn’t believe it,” Albanez said.
Only 2.8 seconds remained.
Needing a near miracle, Walker threw a football pass as Sharpe broke down the court. The deep defender hesitated.
Sharpe didn’t. And then the shot fell.