Down by three with 28 seconds left in regulation, Santa Clarita Christian boys basketball desperately needed Renaissance Academy of Altadena to miss the front end of a one-and-one free throw opportunity.
What the Cardinals didn’t need were consecutive lane violations that wiped out two misses. On the third attempt, Wildcat guard Uros Velanac made it.
Another make all but ended SCCS’s uneven 53-46 loss Thursday at home in a rematch of the CIF-Southern Section 2014 Division 5A title game.
Like the 2014 rendition, a 54-35 Renaissance win, the Wildcats were taller than the Cardinals.
But this time, SCCS wasn’t overmatched.
The Cardinals (7-2) used a 12-2 third-quarter run, during which Renaissance didn’t score for four minutes, to take a 36-35 lead.
SCCS led by four late in the fourth quarter.
It wasn’t enough.
Wildcat Nick Pesi’s fifth 3-pointer broke a 46-all tie with 47 seconds on the clock, and Renaissance (1-0) iced the game at the free throw line, with a little help.
“I felt like at times we got a little tight,” said SCCS coach James Mosley. “The lesson we learned is winning doesn’t just happen. You have to be aggressive and go get it.”
Sometimes, you have to overcome obstacles, too.
Like 2-of-11 shooting in the first quarter, or a similarly cold fourth quarter.
To the Cardinals’ credit, they kept shooting.
AJ Caldwell finished with a team-high 19 points. Josh Fehr followed with 13, 10 of which came in the second quarter.
That was Pesi’s best frame, too. He hit all four of his three-point attempts to propel the Wildcats to a 26-21 lead at half in their first game of the year.
Renaissance canceled its December schedule because it was waiting for the CIF to clear 12 transfers, from roughly five countries.
“I told them there would be nerves,” said Wildcats coach Aaron Clitheroe.
That might account for Renaissance making one field goal in the first quarter, after which SCCS led 7-6.
The Cardinals, ranked No. 10 in Division 5AA, will look for a faster start Saturday against Brentwood School of Los Angeles.