Poway players celebrate the Titans' buzzer-beater shot against Escondido in the Under Armour Holiday Classic.
Under Armour Holiday Classic: Schedule
With six of his team’s first 12 games decided by five points or fewer, Poway boys basketball coach Scott Fisher made a not-so-bold “close game” prediction before his Titans met Escondido in the Governors Division semifinals of the Under Armour Holiday Classic on Saturday at Carlsbad High.
Fisher was right as Poway overcame a seven-point deficit midway through the fourth quarter and edged Escondido 74-72. The victory earns the No. 10-ranked Titans (9-4) a spot in Monday’s 5:30 p.m. final against Punahou from Honolulu, a 68-54 winner over Carlsbad.
What Fisher couldn’t predict was who would score the winning basket.
With the scored tied at 72 and 5 seconds to play, Poway’s Tommy Erb hustled the ball up the floor and crashed the lane. His shot went off the rim and into the hands of Zach Salafia, whose put-back basket at the buzzer accounted for his only points of the game.
“I was looking for anything I could,” Salafia said. “I’m not the flashiest guy. I’m kind of a junkyard dog player — scrappy. This whole tournament has been crazy.”
The Titans beat Aliso Niguel by three points the first night and edged Lincoln of Portland by two in the quarterfinals.
“We always seem to give the fans their money’s worth,” Fisher said.
Escondido (9-3) appeared to be in the money, leading 67-60 with 3:45 to play. But Poway went on a 9-0 run, taking the lead with 40 seconds to play on Erb’s driving layin.
Escondido tied it on a floater by Khy Kabellis with five seconds to play, setting up the dramatic finish.
“I told Erb to attack the rim,” Fisher said. “If he was double-teamed I wanted him to kick it to a shooter. I wanted him to get an open shot or get fouled. Basically, I told him to make a play.”
Kabellis led all scorers with 33 points, including five 3-pointers. Escondido had 10 3-pointers in the game.
In the National Division at Torrey Pines, L.A. Loyola handed Sierra Canyon its first loss of the season 83-69 to advance to Monday’s 8:05 p.m. championship against Corona Centennial.
• In the American Division at La Costa Canyon, the host Mavericks advanced to Monday’s 4:55 p.m. title game at Torrey Pines with an 81-68 win over L.A. Windward. LCC will play Mater Dei Catholic, a 47-39 winner over Roosevelt of Seattle.
• In the Senators Division at La Jolla Country Day, Francis Parker secured a spot in Monday’s 7:05 p.m. final, edging Sonora 49-48.
• In the Mayors Division at Santa Fe Christian, host Santa Fe Christian edged Westview to claim a spot in Monday’s 7:05 p.m. final against Bishop’s, which beat Rancho Christian 61-49.