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March 9, 2013
California's version of March Madness, known as the Open Division of the state playoffs, came to Fresno with full fanfare Friday night but left with a controversial ending as Westchester escaped by the narrowest of margins - and a questionable last-second call - for a 60-58 win over the host Knights.
In what was just an amazing atmosphere for a high school basketball game - a packed gym filled mostly with Bullard supporters but a vocal Westchester section - the teams responded with an intense, but highly entertaining game that extended baseline to baseline all night as both teams pressed the pace. And in the end Westchester (29-6) came away with the win.
But it was an ending that will be talked about for years as Bullard (28-2) nearly tied the game on the final possession. Coming out of a timeout, the Knights' Corey Silverstrom drove through the lane for a last-second shot that missed. Bullard's Calvin Young tipped the ball back in, but the referees immediately ruled that Young's tip-in had come after the final horn, allowing Westchester to escape with the win. Unfortunately, a photograph forwarded to the Los Angeles Times shows the ball in the basket with 0.2 seconds remaining on the clock; instant replay is not used in high school games, at least not yet.
Amazingly, the large, vocal and extremely supportive crowd remained positive even after the game was over, chanting the team's name as the players battled tears in the aftermath of the loss. That was just the final chapter of a positive evening - from a friendly Mr. York who was in charge of the parking lot outside to the Bullard P.A. announcer who announced the starting lineups for both teams - not just the home squad - to spotlights and music.
Despite the supportive home crowd, Westchester started the game extremely well. Matthew Grant scored off a pass from Kevin Rutledge in the opening seconds, and the Comets led, 7-1, less than two minutes into the game. The Westchester lead reached double digits at 15-5 later in the first quarter, and the Comets would finish the quarter shooting a sizzling 65% on 9-for-14 from the floor.
But Bullard never let the Comets pull away. The Knights trailed, 21-12, after one quarter, but pulled within two points at 26-24 early in the second quarter. Westchester scored the game's next six points and led, 34-25, with 2:56 left in the first half. But Bullard battled back again and got within five points at the break after Quinn Rystad hit his only shot of the night, a 3-pointer, in the final minute of the first half.
Westchester came out strong again in the second half, with Grant scoring on a backdoor cut off a pass from Tyler Batiste about 20 seconds into the third quarter. Nick Hamilton scored on a putback to push Westchester's lead back to nine points at 42-33. A steal by Nick Reese led to a lay-up by Batiste that stretched the Comets' advantage to 11 points at 44-33, which was the largest lead of the game.
That Westchester lead didn't last long, however, as Bullard responded with a 12-0 run to take its only lead of the night. A 3-pointer by Jarred Morrill brought the Knights within three points at 44-41, and a slam dunk by Young after a steal by sophomore Austin Armstead made it 44-43 moments later. Adam Armstead, Aaron's older brother, capped the run by scoring from under the basket to give Bullard its first lead of the night, 45-44, with 1:42 left in the third quarter.
After Reese scored to break the run and put Westchester back on top, Adam Armstead split two free throws to tie the score at 46. Then Young scored off an inbounds pass from Chris Russell to give Bullard a 48-46 lead with 23.2 seconds left in the quarter. That, however, would be Bullard's last lead as Grant made two free throws for Westchester with 4.9 seconds left in the period to tie the score at 48 after three quarters.
And Westchester went right back into the lead when Darnell Brown made a 3-pointer 20 seconds into the fourth quarter. A 3-pointer by Grant with 5:58 left stretched the Comet lead to six at 56-50. Then Grant fed Elijah Stewart for a fast break basket to make it 58-50. After Aaron Armstead split a pair of free throws for Bullard, Joshua Rideau made a short jumper for Westchester to give the Comets a nine-point lead at 60-51 with 4:20 remaining.
But those would be Westchester's last points of the game. And Bullard would rally, getting oh so close to tying the score. Young made one free throw with 3:43 left, and Morrill made two free throws with 3:03 left to make it 60-54. Young scored a field goal with 2:45 remaining to make it 60-56. And Silverstrom scored on a driving lay-up with 1:49 left to make it a two-point game at 60-58 in favor of Westchester.
But those would be the last points of the game for either team. Adam Armstead had a chance to tie the score but missed a twisting, driving lay-up with just over a minute to go. Batiste missed a 3-pointer for Westchester, with the ball caroming over the backboard and out to Bullard with 31.3 seconds left. But Grant stole the ball away from Silverstrom near midcourt with about 20 seconds left, and moments later had a chance to seal the win for Westchester when he was fouled with 11.3 seconds remaining. However, he missed the front end of a one-and-one opportunity from the free throw line, keeping it a 2-point game.
Young grabbed the rebound of the missed free throw and Bullard called timeout with 10.5 seconds left. On the restart, Russell dribbled the ball into the frontcourt and Bullard called another timeout with 5.2 seconds left. Then on the next restart Silverstrom dribbled across the lane and tried a shot that hit both the rim and backboard before Young tipped the rebound back in, only to have the basket waved off by the officials.
For Westchester, Grant finished with 11 points, 3 assists and 5 steals despite sitting much of the first half in foul trouble. Elijah Stewart came off the bench for 11 points and Brown had 10 points and 3 assists. Hamilton had 6 points and a team-high 9 rebounds. Overall, the Comets shot 41% from the floor, but just 34% after the first quarter.
For Bullard, Young was the standout with 11 points, 13 rebounds and 5 blocked shots, which doesn't include what should probably have been the game-tying tip-in. Aaron Armstead came off the bench for 11 points, 2 assists and 2 steals, while older brother Adam had 9 points and 6 rebounds. Silverstrom had 8 points, 4 assists and 2 steals. Russell had 7 points and a game-high 6 assists.
The win advances Westchester to the next round in which the Comets will travel to Rancho Cucamonga to face Southern Section Division 1 champion Etiwanda on Tuesday.
Box scoreFriday, March 8, 2013 - 7 pm
At Bullard HS, Fresno
State Playoffs - Open Division - First Round
Westchester Comets 60:0-Matthew Grant, SG - 4/11 fg, 2/3 ft, 1 reb, 3 ast, 1 blk, 5 stl, 4 pf, 11 pts
10-Tyler Batiste, PG - 4/10 fg, 0/1 ft, 5 reb, 1 ast, 3 pf, 8 pts
14-Nick Reese, C - 2/7 fg, 0/2 ft, 8 reb, 1 ast, 2 stl, 3 pf, 4 pts
21-Kevin Rutledge, SF - 2/2 ft, 1 ast, 1 stl, 1 pf, 2 pts
32-Nick Hamilton, PF - 2/6 fg, 2/4 ft, 9 reb, 1 pf, 6 pts
2-Darnell Brown, G - 4/8 fg, 3 ast, 1 pf, 10 pts
25-Myles Stewart, G - 2/6 fg, 1 reb, 1 ast, 1 stl, 1 pf, 4 pts
30-Elijah Stewart, F - 5/9 fg, 3 reb, 2 ast, 1 stl, 3 pf, 11 pts
34-Joshua Rideau, C - 1/2 fg, 9 reb, 2 ast, 1 blk, 2 pf, 2 pts
11-Cameron Young, F - 1/2 fg, 1 reb, 1 ast, 2 stl, 1 pf, 2 pts
24-Bacari Green, G - 1 reb, 1 stl, 0 pts
42-Layon Gooden, G - 0 pts
team rebounds: 7
Totals: 25/61 fg (.410), 6/12 ft (.500), 45 reb, 15 ast, 2 blk, 13 stl, 20 pf, 60 pts
3-pt fg (4): Brown 2, Grant, E. Stewart
Turnovers (19): Batiste 4, Reese 3, Rideau 3, Rutledge 2, Brown 2, Grant, Hamilton, E. Stewart, Young, Green
Bullard Knights 58:5-Chris Russell, PG - 3/7 fg, 2 reb, 6 ast, 2 stl, 1 pf, 7 pts
20-Jarred Morrill, SF - 2/7 fg, 2/2 ft, 2 reb, 3 stl, 1 pf, 7 pts
24-Taran Malhi, C - 2/4 ft, 2 reb, 1 ast, 1 pf, 2 pts
33-Corey Silverstrom, SG - 3/14 fg, 2 reb, 4 ast, 1 blk, 2 stl, 3 pf, 8 pts
35-Adam Armstead, PF - 3/8 fg, 3/4 ft, 6 reb, 1 stl, 1 pf, 9 pts
2-Calvin Young, C - 3/8 fg, 5/10 ft, 13 reb, 5 blk, 2 stl, 1 pf, 11 pts
3-Aaron Armstead, G - 4/6 fg, 1/2 ft, 1 reb, 2 ast, 1 blk, 2 stl, 3 pf, 11 pts
11-Terence Garcia, G - 1 reb, 1 ast, 1 pf, 0 pts
13-James Girado, F - 1 reb, 1 ast, 1 pf, 0 pts
23-Shayon Falls, F - 1 ast, 1 stl, 1 pf, 0 pts
10-Quinn Rystad, G - 1/1 fg, 3 pts
team rebounds: 3
Totals: 19/51 fg (.373), 13/22 ft (.591), 33 reb, 16 ast, 7 blk, 13 stl, 15 pf, 58 pts
3-pt fg (7): Silverstrom 2, Aaron Armstead 2, Russell, Morrill, Rystad
Turnovers (18): Russell 6, Aaron Armstead 5, Silverstrom 3, Adam Armstead 2, Young, Falls
Score by Quarters:
Westchester---21-17-10-12 = 60
Bullard----------12-21-15-10 = 58
Updated Records: Westchester 29-6, Bullard 27-3
Westchester led 15-5 early on and shot 65% (9/14) in the 1st quarter.
Westchester led 44-33 in the 3rd; Bullard then went on a 12-0 run to lead, 45-44, and also led, 48-46.
Brown hit a three 20 seconds into the 4th and Westchester led the rest of the way.
Westchester led 60-51 with 4:20 left. Bullard got within 2 at 60-58 with 1:49 left.
On the final play Young tipped in a Silverstrom miss but it was ruled after the horn.
Photographic evidence in the LA Times suggests the tip-in was on time.