Saturday, Jan. 17, 2009 | 1 a.m.
It was the fourth quarter of Friday's game between Las Vegas and Shadow Ridge when the Mustangs started to make a late charge.
After getting outplayed the first three quarters, Shadow Ridge used aggressive rebounding and second-chance shots to climb back into the game midway through the fourth. They had trailed by as much as 12, but eventually, the Mustangs found themselves down by just six points with the momentum starting to sway in their favor.
As quickly as their rally started, however, two key three-pointers for Las Vegas swayed the game back toward a 77-68 victory for the Wildcats.
"We hit some big shots there at the end to squash their rally," Las Vegas coach Jason Wilson said.
George Sanico and Aahmad Franklin each nailed the three-pointers for Las Vegas (9-8, 1-2) that put the game out of reach for the Mustangs.
Senior Tony Eackles Jr. and junior Tyree Anderson provided the finishing touches in the Wildcats' victory by delivering powerful dunks in the game's final minutes.
"Anytime a guy gets a (dunk) like that it's going to fire up guys on the court and on the bench," Wilson said.
At the start of the fourth quarter, Las Vegas had a 12-point lead and tried to slow down the game to take time off the clock and limit possessions. The Wildcats also went with a full-court press to try to keep the Mustangs from developing an offensive rhythm.
But Shadow Ridge effectively broke the Las Vegas press to end with some wide-open shots.
Ultimately, missed layups proved to be the downfall of Shadow Ridge (3-8, 0-3), as the Mustangs could not capitalize on close range shots generated from breaking the press and grabbing offensive rebounds.
"We had to execute and finish layups," Shadow Ridge coach Charles Henderson said. "We had good looks, we just didn't finish."
Shadow Ridge junior Zach Hafen kept the Mustangs in the game until the end. Not afraid to take the deep three-pointer, Hafen finished with a game high 31 points and also grabbed 15 rebounds.
His energy kept Shadow Ridge in the game as he refused to go away quietly, despite facing a double-digit deficit. Even in the final seconds with no chance of a comeback, Hafen chased after a ball in the corner and drew a foul with 0.4 seconds left as he fired a desperation shot.
"He comes with tenacity," Henderson said. "He's finally stepping into that leadership role."
Leading the way for the Wildcats was Eackles Jr., who finished with 25 points. He proved to be a dangerous threat from all over the court, dropping back behind the three-point arc and also driving to the basket with raw athleticism.
"He's one of the under-the-radar guys in the area. We're hoping he can have more games like that down the stretch," Wilson said. "When he's playing well, the other guys feed off that."
Also scoring in double figures for Las Vegas was freshman Hassan Henderson with 14, Franklin with 13 and Sanico with 12. Henderson and Sanico both came off the bench to provide and offensive spark for the Wildcats.
"That's a good feeling that we can withstand these rallies and runs," Wilson said. "Basketball is a game all about runs."