Jarod Lucas’ buzzer-beating 50-footer gives Los Altos one of the four Classic at Damien championships

LA VERNE, Ca. – Etiwanda High’s basketball team wrapped up the second The Classic at Damien Saturday night in Damien High’s Athletic Center by pulling away down the stretch for a 65-54 victory over the St. Bernard Vikings in the Platinum Division championship game.

The 64-team event’s other three titles were taken by Los Altos (Gold/60-58 over Eastvale Roosevelt), Muir (Silver/72-63 over Bonita) and Troy (54-40 over Mark Keppel).

Each of the Platinum’s 32 games over the week was a virtual “preview” of CIF Southern (14 of the teams), L.A. City (Taft) of San Diego (Vista) Open or Division I playoff games in February and March.

Although the grind-it-out performance by Etiwanda (14-1) against the underclassmen-laden Vikings (9-4) – who had “upset” the host Spartans, Vista and Santa Margarita to get to Saturday night’s final – was the event finale, it was the Gold Division title contest that provided much of the day’s excitement earlier in the evening in the Athletic Center.

The lead changed hands 10 times in the final four minutes, with a left-handed layup by Jared Williams with three seconds remaining, set up by an on-target pass from about 30 feet away by Brennon Wade, seemingly giving the Roosevelt Mustangs a 58-57 victory that would give them the title and extend their record to 12-0.

The key word in the preceding paragraph, though, is seemingly.

On Saturday night, seemingly had no meaning to Jarod Lucas or his Los Altos teammates.

After a timeout was granted to the Conquerors with 2.1 seconds of game time remaining, senior Danny Plascencia delivered his from-the-baseline inbound pass to the 6-foot-3 Lucas near the right sideline, with the junior snagging the ball on the run, taking a dribble and then launching a jump shot – not a heave, but a jump shot – from something close to 50-feet away.

Bang!

  The ball swished through the net ever-so-stunningly as the game buzzer was sounding, setting up an on-court celebration by the Los Altos players and coaches and a whole lot of early New Year’s Eve merriment from parents and fans in the bleachers.

“It felt very good coming of my hands and I knew right away it had a chance to go in,” said Lucas immediately after, echoing the words of so many others before him who delivered in similar scenarios.

Lucas, one of the most heavily recruited guards in the Class of 2019, was the obvious Most Outstanding Player choice in the division, scoring 18 points (including 3s in the third and fourth quarter from more “traditional” distances than his game-winner, of course) to go with five rebounds and four assists.

But Los Altos (11-2) got also just-as-critical efforts from the likes of all-tourney selections Julian Lopez and Bryant Howing (who scored 19 of their combined 24 points after intermission), as well as another senior, Plascenia, who hit three 3s among his 12 points.

Williams, a 6-6 senior who would have been the division’s MOP minus the Lucas buzzer-beating heroics, had game-highs with 19 points and 11 rebounds and was joined on the all-tournament team by teammates Wade and David Agba.

Earlier, in the Bronze Division final that was also played at Damien but in its Event Center, Troy (11-4) was in control throughout while topping Mark Keppel (11-4), 54-40, as senior Jared Reyes scored 21 points to go with nine rebounds, four assists and three steals.

Classmate Alec Sinek, who averaged 21 points in his team’s first three wins, was the division’s Most Outstanding Player while Michael Granados, a 6-1 sophomore, was an all-tourney choice from Mark Keppel.

In the first of the three championship games played in the Athletic Center Saturday, Muir (8-5) outlasted Bonita (9-5) behind the 24-point effort of 6-6 division MOP Hunter Woods, one of the better seniors who has yet to decide which college he will be attending in the fall.

The Mustangs also 14 points from guard Tiyon Martin and 10 more from center Tay Tay Aubrey-Thomas.

The Bearcats got 19 points from all-tourney selection Jamaal Barnes and 10 more from sophomore guard Jordan Lopez.

In the Platinum final, the Vikings – who have just one senior, Malcolm Bray, playing significant minutes – demonstrating immediately that they weren’t intimidated by nor were they going to be overwhelmed by the all-senior group of Eagles notable for its relentless half-court defense and chew-you-up offensive attack.

A 14-2 run, sparked by speedy point guard Mook Harris (who got eight of those points), put St. Bernard up after the first quarter, 20-12.

It proved to be the second – and last – time an opponent scored as many as 20 points against Coach Dave Kleckner’s defense in 16 quarters of Platinum play against Taft, Oak Park, St. John Bosco and the Vikings.

A layup by junior guard Dorian Stewart on the first possession of the second quarter pushed the Vikings’ advantage to 10 points before the Eagles firmed up their defense and got scoring from five players – five apiece by Kessler Edwards and Toby Okwuokei – to get to within 30-27 at intermission.

A 10-point third quarter – including two late 3s – by Okwuokei (a transfer from Rancho Cucamonga) put the Eagles in front, 48-44, going into the final quarter.

Two free throws by Harris got St. Bernard to within 56-54 with 1:47 remaining but also proved to be the final points of the night for Coach Mitch Runco’s crew.

Elijah Harkless answered Harris free throws with two of his own 14 seconds later, Edwards got a layup after a missed shot by Harris and Harkless got hit one of two more free throws (as the result of a technical for the St. Bernard coaches apparently disputing a charging call against freshman Tyler Powell).

The Eagles closed things out via two Krystian Wilson free throws and a Edwards bucket by way of a Harkless pass.

Harkless, who may defend as well as any guard in Southern California and is a much-improved jump shooter and floor leader, got the division’s Most Outstanding Player plaque and was joined on the all-tourney squad by the Pepperdine-bound Edwards (18 points and 12 rebounds Saturday) and Wilson (10 points, six in the final quarter).

Harris (who built upon his reputation as one of the state’s best point guards in the Class of 2019 during the week), fellow junior Romelle Mansel (6-9 and rapidly improving) and sophomore guard Nick Bowden Jr. were the Vikings’ all-tourney representatives.

Among the other Platinum Division all-tourney selections, Damien senior guard Cameron Shelton (bound for Northern Arizona University) scored 24 points in a consolation championship win over Taft Saturday afternoon, giving him a tournament scoring average-best of 29.8 – which included a “Crossover” win over La Canada Thursday night.

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