With a whoosh, two passes and a swoosh, Canyon High boys basketball began to knock the air out of Golden Valley High.
And it was just the beginning.
Point guard Steven Aguirre sped across the baseline and sent a chest pass to Kevin Stone, who flipped the ball to Jack Yerem for a buzzer-beating 3-pointer to end the first half.
The basket cut Golden Valley’s lead to three at Hart High on Thursday and served as a harbinger for a Canyon-dominated second half.
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The Cowboys’ 57-42 win secured a spot in the Hart Holiday Classic’s third-place game tonight and generated obvious good vibes.
“It was huge,” Canyon coach Alex Dunwoody said of Yerem’s 3-pointer. “… We obviously were struggling with scoring (so it was huge) to gain a little momentum going into halftime.”
Yerem scored a game-high 19 points, 14 of which came after the break. He nailed a floater in the closing seconds of the third quarter to give Canyon a 39-34 lead heading to the fourth.
Then, three minutes into the final frame, the Cowboys (5-6) opened a 10-point lead on a Josue Valencia 3-pointer.
Valencia finished with 11 points.
Canyon’s Yvan Yomba, a 6-foot-6 senior, recorded seven blocks on the night.
“Oh my goodness. He was unbelievable,” Yerem said of Yomba. “He threw a block party of his own.”
Yomba spearheaded a Canyon defense that held the Grizzlies to three field goals in the fourth quarter.
Golden Valley (5-6) turned the ball over 19 times after the first quarter.
“They wanted it more (than we did),” said Golden Valley coach Larry Keys. “They played with way more heart. When you get a group of kids who don’t care who gets the buckets, don’t care who gets the glory, great things happen.
The insinuation, clearly, was that those things didn’t apply to his team.
Isolation basketball and ill-advised shots slowed Golden Valley’s offense. Its defense left too many Cowboys open behind the three-point line.
Milan Taylor scored nine points to lead the Grizzlies, who would have advanced to the tournament’s championship tonight against Hart with a win.
Because of a head-to-head tiebreaker, Granada Hills advanced to the championship instead of Canyon, which didn’t seem preoccupied with missing a shot at the title.
Dunwoody embraced Brody Briscoe as the junior came off the floor in the fourth quarter.
Smiles were everywhere.
Canyon plays in the third-place game at Hart tonight at 6 p.m.
Golden Valley plays Eastside of Lancaster in the seventh-place game at 3 p.m. at Hart.
Hart 45, Eastside 35
Whitten Dominguez scored 15 points to help the Indians improve to 3-0 at their home tournament.
Hart will play Granada Hills on Friday night at home in the tournament’s championship.