Down 48-41 with 4:17 left in regulation, things couldn’t have looked much worse for the Nevada Union Miners Friday night in a packed Ali Gymnasium.
It appeared that visiting Yuba City had all the momentum it would need to send the Miners to their second straight Metro Conference defeat this week.
“We were in trouble,” said NU head coach Jeff Dellis.
But instead of accepting a dip into second place in league standings, the Miners dug in.
NU cranked up the defensive pressure, ran off a 9-2 spurt to force overtime and then shut out the Honkers in overtime for an improbable 57-50, come-from-behind win.
“With about two minutes to go, (senior) Jarad Van Matre told me we should be in ’50’ (the more aggressive of NU’s two defensive sets),” Dellis said. “In ’50’, we get up in people’s faces to force turnovers and some tough shots.
“That’s some serious senior leadership. We stayed in ’50’ the rest of the way.”
If Van Matre ever needs a reference for a coaching position down the road, he might want to list his high school coach on his resume.
The switch provided just the pressure NU needed to pull back into the game – along with, of course, some clutch offensive performances on the opposite end of the floor.
Sophomore Tyler Smith put back his own miss with 4:03 to go in the fourth quarter, trimming the lead to five just before senior Zane Edwards followed with a 15-footer to cut things to 48-45 with 3:27 remaining.
Back-to-back Yuba City turnovers enabled NU to inch even closer at the 1:23 mark, when a key call from the officials went NU’s way – and then was made worse for Yuba City with a technical foul levied on the Honkers.
After what appeared to be an NU turnover, Yuba City’s John Dewall was whistled for a foul – then came the technical.
“We had gotten a couple of key rebounds and it seemed like we had the momentum in our favor,” said Yuba City head coach Brad MacIntire, recalling his Honkers’ 48-41 lead with just over four minutes to play. “That tech. If we don’t that tech, we probably finish it out.”
Edwards sank both ends of his double-bonus charity tosses to bring Nevada Union within 48-47 with 1:23 on the clock. The Miners then got the ball back, but Van Matre missed a shot in the paint after baseline drive to the bucket.
Yuba City, though, turned the ball over again – this time into the hands of Smith, who sped down the floor for a layup that gave NU a 49-48 lead.
Derrick Burt brought the Honkers back to life, however, scoring on a layup off an assist from junior Kevin Cordano for a 50-49 score. Then came another controversial call, a foul whistled on Yuba City’s Jake Holmes that put Edwards at the line with 14 seconds left.
Edwards, who had 16 points on the night, hit one of two charity tosses to send the game to overtime – once Cordano’s desperation jumper bounced off the left side of the rim.
“There’s no doubt that Nevada Union was waiting for this game all week,” MacIntire said. “It kind of cost them on Wednesday (in NU’s 53-50 loss at Woodland), but there was no doubt they were ready for this game tonight.”
The matchup was the first of two showdowns of last season’s Metro co-champions. The two will meet again, at Yuba City, on Feb. 17.
The win kept the Miners atop league standings (13-7 overall, 5-1 Metro). Yuba City slipped to 9-9 on the season and 3-3 in league play.
Without NU’s defensive performance down the stretch of the fourth quarter – and then the shutout it pitched in overtime – the Metro Conference standings would look quite a bit different this morning.
And throughout the night, it looked as though Cordano was about to make that happen. The 5-foot, 8-inch guard scorched the Miners for a game-high 20 points. Through the first three quarters, Cordano had hit for 16 points on 7-of-10 shooting.
“He’s unbelievable,” Dellis said. “Before the game, I told our guys we couldn’t take plays off. All Kevin needs is for you to relax just a little bit and he’ll get his shot off.”
One key shot that he did get away got returned in a hurry in the overtime period, thanks to a clutch defensive play by Edwards. With NU leading 53-50 with 35 seconds left in the extra session, Edwards swatted away a Cordano jumper and then was fouled.
He sank the front end of the two-shot foul for a 54-50 lead with 26 seconds to go, essentially sealing the outcome.
Edwards was one of two Miners to reach double digits in scoring. Smith led NU with 18 points and grabbed six rebounds on the night. Senior Colt Stafford scored six points, including four in the overtime period. Senior Archie Pearson had five points and seven rebounds, while junior Brennan McFadden added five points and four boards in the win.
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EL DORADO — Nevada Union’s up and down season continued Friday night as the Miners struggled mightily in a 41-7 loss to the Union Mine Diamondbacks.