PERRIS --- Elsinore's boys basketball team had to sweat out the final seconds, but the visiting Tigers finally put away a pesky Perris team and claimed the Sunbelt League boys basketball title outright for the second consecutive year with a 58-54 victory Thursday night.
The Tigers (21-4, 8-0) never trailed in the game, but also never got much separation from the Panthers (11-14, 4-4), who managed to keep Elsinore's lead in the single digits.
"We expected a close one," Tigers coach Pete Rettinger said. "It's always a battle with Perris. Anytime Elsinore and Perris play, it is going to be a barn-burner."
Thursday night's edition didn't disappoint. Elsinore built its largest lead of the game, 45-37, at the end of the third quarter but couldn't put Perris away. The Panthers clawed back into the game and trailed by only one point after Devon Ware drained a 3-pointer with 1:01 to play.
Elsinore's E.J. Twyman missed a 3-pointer, giving Perris a chance to take its first lead of the game with 40 seconds left. The Panthers' Maurice Williams drove into the lane but missed a wide-open layup off the back of the rim and Twyman grabbed the rebound and was fouled with 31 seconds to play.
Twyman, who lead all scorers with 30 points, made both ends of the one-and-one to push the lead to three, 55-52.
Perris center Marc Ringnell was fouled catching a post-entry pass with 14 seconds left and matched Twyman by hitting his two free throws to again make it a one-point game, 55-54. The Tigers in-bounded the ball to Twyman, who was immediately fouled. Once again Twyman calmly made both free throws once again make it a three-point game at 57-54.
"For a junior to be so cool under pressure like that is something special," Rettinger said.
Perris had a final chance to tie the game, but Deonte Palm's 3-pointer was off the mark and a mad scramble for the ball ensued with Ethan Williams finally coming up with it for Elsinore with less than a second to play. He hit one of two free throws to finally end the game.
"We practice for situations like that and I think it paid off," Rettinger said. "We had two or three guys on the floor battling for the that last rebound. That's what basketball is all about."
With Twyman as the only consistent offensive option for the Tigers, Daniel Dedeaux scored all 10 of his points in the third quarter to help Twyman shoulder the load.
"We needed another guy to step up offensively in the third quarter with Lawrence (Chamberlain) struggling," Rettinger said. "Daniel didn't play well in the first half, but he came out and got composed and played better in the second half."
Chamberlain, averaging more than 16 points per game, had just six points, but five of them came in the game's final four minutes. Williams chipped in with 10 points off the bench and helped with his team's pressure defense that caused 26 Perris turnovers.
The Panthers got a team-high 17 points from Williams with Ware adding 11 points.
The Tigers have two games remaining, but have now locked up the league top spot heading into the playoffs.
"It's great to win league for two years in a row," Rettinger said. "It is a tough league, up and down the line."