On its Senior Night, St. Joseph spoiled San Luis Obispo's bid for the outright PAC 8 League boys basketball title.
The Knights, or rather junior St. Joseph junior guard Kainoa Keuma, finished on a 9-0 run and St. Joseph beat the PAC 8 League co-champ for the second time this year, this time 61-59 in front of a raucous crowd at St. Joseph's Hofsculte Gymasium Friday night.
The Knights out-scored the Tigers 7-0 over the last 1:34. Keuma drove down the middle of the lane on St. Joseph's last possession, was fouled as he went up for the shot then made two free throws with 2.9 seconds left for the last points.
Mac McConnell's 3-point try for the Tigers from just past the midcourt line as time ran out came fairly close but was long.
Keuma said his drive down the stretch wasn't a designed play. "I just saw the opening and I took it," he said. "I was just trying to make a layup for my team."
No, Keuma said, he didn't feel any extra nerves on those last two free throws. "My free throw shooting has been up and down this year, but it's been better lately," he said. He delivered at the line at the most crucial time for the Knights Friday night.
The Tigers held St. Joseph's standout 6-foot-7 senior center, Elihu Cobb, to two points, but other Knights picked up the slack. Matt Chavez led St. Joseph with 17 points and Keuma had 12.
Will Compton scored a game-high 18 points for the Tigers. McConnell had 11 and Addason Wright scored 10.
San Luis Obispo (21-7, 10-4) settled for a share of the league title with Mission Prep. The Royals beat Paso Robles 78-63 Friday night. The Tigers will enter the playoffs with three straight losses.
St. Joseph also opened the door for Arroyo Grande Friday night but underdog Atascadero slammed the door shut, beating the Eagles 67-62 and denying them a three-way share of the league title.
The Knights (16-11, 9-5) and Eagles (9-5 PAC 8 League) finished tied for third. Because the Royals beat the Knights twice, Mission Prep will enter the playoffs as the top seed from the league.
Since the Eagles swept their season series with the Knights, they will enter the playoffs as the third seed from the PAC 8 and the Knights will enter as the fourth. Mission Prep and St. Joseph are both in the CIF Southern Section's Division 2A. Arroyo Grande is in 3A and San Luis Obispo is in 4AA.
The Knights started the game on an 8-0 run, the Tigers, either slipping a pass to the open man for a successful 3-point shot or driving through an open lane for a score, got back into it and the teams pretty much traded scores for awhile.
After trailing 36-33 at halftime, San Luis Obispo gradually opened a 53-45 lead at the 7:34 mark of the fourth quarter. The Knights then extended their front-court defensive pressure to nearly the mid-court line.
The move worked. The Tigers' offense floundered under the extended pressure and the visitors turned the ball over six times the last 7:34.
"You're down by eight in the fourth quarter against a good team like that , and at that point some desperation sets in," said St. Joseph coach Tom Mott.
"We knew it was our last chance. The guys did a good job and made some big plays."
After taking that 53-45 lead, the Tigers came up empty on nine of their next 10 possessions until McConnell knocked down a fourth-chance 3-point shot to put the Tigers up 59-54 at the 1:34 mark.
During a timeout Mott let his guys know he wasn't happy about that, and the Knights responded. The Tigers were scoreless on their last three possessions, and the Knights scored the last three times they had the ball.
Playoff pairings will come out Sunday.
Battle of Regions
BAKERSFIELD — Hancock College freshman Haleigh Batty won the women's long jump with a best of 18 feet, 4 inches and the high jump at 5-2 as Hancock opened its season with an appearance at this meet at Bakersfield College.
Batty, who qualified for the 2017 state high school meet in the long jump as a senior at Cabrillo, finished fifth in the javelin at 69-4.
Hancock sophomore Ben Wulfestieg had three top-six finishes. He placed fifth in the shot put at 40-3.5, fifth in the hammer at 70-8 and sixth in the javelin at 135-0.
Freshman teammate David Tyler Jr. finished third in the men's 3,000 steeplechase in 11 minutes, 52 seconds. Yovany Pineda placed seventh in the 3,000 in 10:07.
Hancock freshman Destiny Goggins finished fifth in the women's shot put. Her distance was unavailable.