Jordan Tyler blocked away any chance of overtime on his home floor at Bryan Ayer Court on Friday night.
The lengthy Lompoc defender timed his jump just right with 10 seconds left in the fourth quarter – using his right hand to swat a potential game-tying layup before Devin Villalobos drained two late free throws in the 53-51 upset of San Bernardino Aquinas.
Tyler, who came over from Cabrillo during the offseason, was credited for three blocks including that mega swat that got the LHS cheerleaders, student section and parents in the stands to leap out of their bleacher spot – knowing LHS solidified a trip to the quarterfinals of the CIF Southern Section Division 4A playoffs.
“It was important for me to get the defensive play and help my guys win. It’s a good feeling,” Tyler said. “I’m hungry. This was a fun game.”
The Braves (14-15 overall) nearly lost a nine-point lead late in the second half. Throughout the night, Lompoc kept the Falcons’ top scoring option Darien Addison in check, as the lefty came in averaging 20.8 points per game. Addison, though, went from being held to just six first half points to going off for 10 points during the third quarter – helping drive a 15-4 run that stretched into the fourth quarter.
Ruben Cortez would answer that run with his 3-pointer that put the Braves back up 43-42. Cortez also fought off a rolled ankle that he sustained while committing a foul during the second quarter. Cortez, known as a stout defender at linebacker on the football field, had the opportunity to slow up Addison for the rest of the night – and forced him to take some tough, contested shots that bounced off the rim.
Lompoc then found itself down 47-44 late as Derek Halbrook found a hole inside to sink the layup for the Falcons, who were 20-7 overall before the Friday contest. Andrew Villa would cut the lead to one by banking his 2-pointer in front of two Falcon defenders. A Tyler free throw tied things up at 47.
The Braves ended their final two minutes by turning to Villa’s soft shooting touch – as the top scoring option drained a late three to give LHS the 50-47 lead. Things, however, got uneasy inside the LHS gym after Villalobos got to the line.
The senior missed from the white stripe twice while his team was up 51-49, placing Aquinas in a position to trek down the court and tie things up.
But along came Tyler’s right hand – which got the ball to make its way toward Villalobos before getting fouled with less than 10 seconds left. From there, the senior swished the last two free throws to help seal the second round victory and get coaches and students rushing the floor.
Braves head coach Paul Terrones lauded Villalobos and his team’s moxie in the end.
“It’s huge and it’s him being a senior – having maturity,” Terrones said of Villalobos. “We work on those situations in practice: Just settling down, taking a deep breath and then believing in your own self. I’m definitely proud of him.
“It’s just the grittiness. That’s what I love about kids from Lompoc. They all have grit. I couldn’t have asked for a group of harder workers and fighters.”
Villa led the way with 14 points. Ryan Morgan finished with 13 and did most of his damage with his turnaround-and-shoot technique while his back was to his defender. Jeffrey Ray added 10 points and emerged as a key steal machine on the defensive end. Tyler finished with seven while Cortez added five.
With a record below .500, Lompoc is well aware that it’ll likely carry the “Cinderella” label for the rest of the CIF playoffs. Tyler, however, prefers a different title for his team.
“I like being called the underdogs. We’ve been called the underdogs. I like it,” Tyler said.
Lompoc will now travel to Desert Hot Springs on Tuesday.