LOS ANGELES - - With final seconds ticking off the fourth-quarter clock, Jacob Hazzard launched up a desperation 3-pointer that appeared to be heading right through the basket. Somehow, someway, the ball ricocheted out and off the rim.
Justin Childress, however, was in the right place at the right time during Tuesday's Southern California Regional boys' basketball playoffs.
He grabbed the rebound, put the ball back up in a hurry and scored the game-winner as the final buzzer sounded to lift Los Angeles Loyola to a dramatic 55-53 victory over visiting San Diego Torrey Pines in a Division I first-round game.
Loyola will next play at Mater Dei in a second-round game Thursday.
"The ball came me to, things we're going in slow motion, the only thing that I wanted to do was get the shot off in time,'' Childress said.
Hazzard, on the other hand, thought he was going to be the one who made the clutch shot. “My jumper was going in, no doubt, I couldn't believe it when the ball didn't drop,'' he said. “My heart dropped. I'm glad Justin was there to bail us out.''
Childress did just that, he bailed out Loyola (25-5), which had built an eight-point lead in the first half and appeared to be heading for an easy victory. Torrey Pines (25-7), on the other hand, entertained ideas of playing spoiler.
“We didn't get a stop at the end of the game and that proved to be the difference,'' Falcons coach John Olive said. “It was a tough loss, but a great high school basketball game. My kids played their hearts out. Loyola did a good job too''
From start to finish, Julian Harrell did his best to keep the Cubs close. But then, he fouled out of the game with 1:22 left.
Nick Kerr played well throughout, particularly in the second half. Left alone on the perimeter, he made the Cubs pay when he knocked down a pair of 3-pointers to give the Falcons a 43-41 lead with 2:19 remaining in the third quarter.
Tensions started to mount soon after as Max Heller and Harrell exchanged words with a little more than a minute left in the third quarter and the score tied at 43-43. A timeout was called and cooler heads prevailed once play resumed.
“It was the heat of the moment, my competitive juices were flowing, but everything was all good after that happened,'' Harrell said.
With a six-point lead to start the second quarter, the Cubs did not let up. Accordingly, Harrell scored on back-to-back baskets to make it a 25-19 game with 2:52 remaining in the first half. Seconds later, the lead was up to eight points.
Torrey Pines took quite a gamble by leaving Heller in the game after he picked up his second foul with 3:30 left in the second quarter. The starting point guard, however, managed to keep his composure and played well thereafter.
Heller scored on a difficult layup in traffic and also handed out an assist to Kerr in the waning moments of the first half. Two free-throws from Kerr followed, and surprisingly enough, the Falcons only trailed 30-29 at intermission.
“It was an ugly game, U-G-L-Y,'' Loyola coach Jamal Adams said. “Give my kids credit, they did show some heart. They're a gutty group.
If the Falcons were somewhat intimidated by their surroundings, it certainly did not show in the opening minutes as Kerr scored on a breakaway layup at the 3:35 minute mark of the first quarter to cut the Loyola lead to 9-8.
Jackson Parker-Cartwright helped the Cubs maintain the momentum. He scored inside and outside and ended up with seven points in the first quarter alone to extend the advantage to 18-12 points heading into the second quarter of play.
Kerr, son of former NBA veteran Steve Kerr who was in the stands, finished with 19 points. Heller added seven points for the Falcons.
Hazzard ended up with a team-high 13 points, including three 3-pointers. Harrell had 11 points. And Childress finished with nine points.
Sean Ceglinsky covers preps for ESPNLosAngeles.com. Follow him on Twitter.