San Marcos' Josh Ramirez (22, shown in an earlier game) hit a 3-pointer at the buzzer to send the game into overtime.
SAN MARCOS Josh Ramirez wasn’t the first option.
He wasn’t even the second.
But with Johnny McWilliams and Kody Clouet covered, Ramirez turned out to be the best option.
With four-tenths of a second to play in regulation and San Marcos trailing by three points, the senior popped open, took the inbounds pass, spun and swished a 25-foot shot to send Tuesday’s Avocado East League basketball showdown with Escondido into overtime.
The Knights made 8 of 10 free throws in the extra period and edged Escondido 64-61.
“The play was for Johnny to come off a screen and get the ball,” Ramirez said. “If he wasn’t open, the ball was supposed to go to Kody.
“Once I got it, I knew I had to put it up and put it up quickly. I had to get rid of it.
“Once I shot it, I knew it was in.”
San Marcos (17-6, 6-1) moved into a first-place tie with Escondido (14-9, 6-1), which had won seven in a row. Both teams have three winnable games down the stretch.
“This was basically for the league championship, and I think we played like it,” Ramirez said.
Escondido led by eight points with 5:04 to play, but the Cougars turned the ball over their next five times down the floor and six times in the fourth quarter.
Still, Escondido appeared to have the game won after McWilliams’ 3-point attempt with 3 seconds to play spun around the rim and came out.
Keegan Cummins rebounded for Escondido and the game appeared over, but San Marcos was called for a foul with 1.5 seconds to play.
Cummins made one of his two free throws, setting up Ramirez’s dramatic shot.
Kelley Kehoe’s 3-pointer with 1:12 in overtime gave San Marcos a three-point lead as Escondido scrambled to catch up.
The Cougars, who had just six turnovers through three quarters, turned the ball over eight times in the final nine minutes.
San Marcos had 10 turnovers in the first half, but only two in the second half and none in the fourth quarter and overtime.
“It all starts with defense,” Ramirez said. “We dug in and played tight defense down the stretch.
“Defense leads to offense.”
The Fresno State-bound McWilliams played like a college player, finishing with 21 points and 13 rebounds before fouling out with 1:35 to play in overtime.
Ramirez finished with 17 points and Jason Simmrin had 11 points and nine rebounds.
Sophomore Warren Washington paced Escondido with 21 points and 10 rebounds. Cummins had 18 points, 14 rebounds and a pair of blocked shots.
Hentley had 11 points, five in overtime.