Going down to the wire, Canyon boys basketball took on Hart at Hart in a Foothill League rivalry game on Tuesday.
Holding the lead for all but a couple minutes of the game, Canyon stifled Hart’s offense, forcing turnovers and bad shots to win the game 65-59.
“We just wanted to make them uncomfortable, have them play our type of game and speed them up and get steals and easy buckets, ” said Canyon’s Willie Yomba . “And I think we did just that.”
Jumping out to a 20-8 lead after one quarter of play, Canyon’s Anthony Gallo went on a scoring rampage driving in the lane, stepping out on the perimeter and knocking down free throws to score 11 of the Cowboys points in the quarter.
Gallo finished with a game-high 19 points, two rebounds and one assist.
“It was all my teammates today,” Gallo said. “They got me the ball and put me in good positions to score and I couldn’t have done it without them.”
Hart forward Julian Verrier was able to get the Indians back in the game by turning steals into points, scoring six straight points along with Ryan Burcham, who came off the bench to hit four clutch free throws to close the half on an 18-9 run for the Indians.
Verrier led the team in scoring with 18 points and Burcham was second with nine points.
On the other side of the half, both teams matched the other’s intensity, diving on the floor for loose balls and battling on the boards.
Canyon’s Yomba and Connor Cooper were able to grab crucial rebounds in the third, which lead to back-to-back layups by Gallo to push the Canyon lead back up to double digits at 45-32 with just under three minutes to go in the quarter.
Cooper ended the night with 10 points, seven rebounds and two assists.
Hart answered by going on another run in the final minutes of the quarter, capped by Josh Wilke’s elbow 3-pointer and Isaac Deedon’s three free throws after getting fouled as the clock expired cutting the lead to 50-46 with one quarter left to play.
Getting key steals by Verrier and Joey Harand, Hart (6-13 overall, 1-2 in Foothill League) was able to get within a basket of Canyon (8-12, 2-1) at 52-50 with a little over five minutes remaining.
Hearing the Canyon chants, Yomba was able to slow things down, drove into the lane and found a wide-open Aaron Berko for the knockdown 3 at the top of the key to put Canyon up 59-53 in the final minute of play.
“Just playing hard and trying to get the win for Canyon,” Yomba said. “We worked so hard and these past two years haven’t been so good for us, but we are rebuilding the culture. Coach is doing a good job and we are just following his lead and coming out and getting wins.”
Yomba finished the game with 12 points, six assists and three rebounds while Berko grabbed seven boards to go with five points in the game.
Trading baskets for the final minute of play, Hart was able to come within two points of Canyon, but thanks to some clutch free throws by Yomba, Gallo and Troy Bietsch down the stretch the Cowboys escaped with their second Foothill League win over the defending league champions.
“They have been preparing for this all year,” said Canyon head coach Sean DeLong. “All they do is work hard. All they do is come every day and work to get better. I’ve had so many people come up to me and tell me that this doesn’t look like the team that we saw a couple weeks ago and it’s all credit to the boys.”
Saugus 86, Golden Valley 60
Saugus’ double-headed attack of junior Adrian McIntyre and freshman Nathan Perez scored 45-of-86 points as the Cents picked up their second Foothill League win.
McIntyre recorded a double-double with 23 points and 12 rebounds. Perez finished with 22 points.
Jared Seow added 14 points for the Centurions in the win.
The Centurions host Canyon next while the Grizzlies welcome Valencia onto their home court on Friday. Both games have a 6:30 p.m. tipoff.