In a Nevada Union Invitational Tournament thriller that went down to the very last second, the El Camino Eagles flew out of Albert Ali Gymnasium with a 65-64 victory over Nevada Union.
With less than a minute to play in the fourth quarter, the Miners clung to a one-point lead as the Eagles brought the ball up. El Camino’s Maurice Hale made his way into the paint, as he had most of the night, and the athletic guard scored the game-winning basket past several NU defenders.
They were Hale’s 17th and 18th points on the night, enough to lead the Eagles in scoring.
The Miners battled in the last minute and had an opportunity to win the game in the final seconds. With 4.4 ticks left on the clock, NU’s Cody Gardner inbounded the ball to Jason Mickel, who was quickly fouled by an Eagles squad with plenty to give. Again the ball, was inbounded, and again the Miners were fouled. Gardner attempted to fire up a shot before the foul was committed, but it was called as a non-shooting foul, this time leaving only .3 seconds on the clock. With one last chance, NU attempted an inbound pass to Lucas Vojak, hoping the 6-foot, 8-inch post player could somehow tip the ball in, but the Eagle defense was fierce, and Vojak couldn’t get off a quality shot.
In a game in which the Miners led most of the way, even holding leads of up to 11 points in the second quarter, the Eagle press was the Miners’ undoing in the second half.
“We shouldn’t have let ourselves get into that position,” NU coach Jeff Dellis said. “Sean (Zuccaro’s) injury hurt us … He calms us down and does well against the pressure.”
Zuccaro started the game, but reaggravated a leg injury in the first half.
The Eagles pressed the Miners for most of the second half, causing turnovers, which led to easy baskets.
“We struggled a bit against the pressure,” Dellis said. “We have to get better, and we will have to do it by committee right now.”
Nevada Union got a strong game from Vojak, who dominated the paint with 22 points, nine rebounds and two blocks.
“It was the biggest game of his career,” Dellis said. “He played like a man, and our kids are looking to him. The result of that is he starts to pitch it out to shooters.”
In the fourth quarter, Vojak had three assists, all to open Miners who sank 3-pointers.
Mickel had a strong game and was second in scoring with 16 points, 14 of which came in the first half. Gardner added 11 points and held El Camino’s top offensive threat to 10 points. Nolan Stefani put in 11, including three 3-pointers in the loss.
With the win, El Camino advances to the NUIT championship game today at 3:45 p.m. against McQueen, which topped River Valley, 59-56, in the other semifinal matchup.
The Miners will face River Valley in the third-place game at 2:10 p.m. today.
In other tournament games, Golden Valley defeated St. John’s 60-34, and Will C. Wood topped West Campus 64-47.
To contact Sports Writer Walter Ford call (530) 477-4232 or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org