SAN MARCOS Standing at the free throw line with 21.3 seconds to play, Mission Hills 7-foot senior center Kameron Rooks was all alone in his thoughts.
Trailing by one point, he was trying to ignore the screaming crowd and especially the four missed free throws he already had in the game.
“I had to make the first one and at least tie the game,” Rooks said. “I didn’t want the season to end right there because of me.”
Rooks nailed both free throws for the final lead change in the game as the Grizzlies withstood one last attempt by Dana Point Dana Hills for a 56-55 victory in Wednesday’s first round of the Southern California Regional boys basketball playoffs.
“Those are the most pressurized free throws in Kameron’s life,” Mission Hills coach Curtis Hofmeister said. “Tonight, he was the right guy at the right time.”
Dana Hills’ Hayden Fredrick missed a reverse layup attempt that rolled off the rim as the final buzzer sounded.
“We survived and advanced,” Hofmeister said. “It wasn’t pretty, but that team had 23 wins playing in a good basketball area. We’ll take it and move on.”
The Grizzlies (28-4) are home in the quarterfinals Saturday against Inglewood, a 61-46 winner over Fresno Central.
Mission Hills opened up a 29-16 lead in the second quarter and appeared to be on its way when the Dolphins (23-9) rolled off the final seven points of the second quarter and the first five points of the second half to slice the deficit to 29-27.
“We gave up some easy ones and that got them going,” Hofmeister said. “They had all the momentum at halftime.
“There were a lot of unknowns in this game. How would they play? How would the refs call the game? How would we react?”
Guard Kibret Woldemichel paced the Grizzlies with 17 points while Cody Hicks added 10.
“We got a little flustered when the big lead went away,” Rooks said. “The game got rougher too, but that’s the normal amount of physicality I see.
“I’ll see it every time in college so I might as well get used to it now.”
Including free throws with the game on the line.