Chaos was the word that Canyon head coach Ali Monfared used to describe the final seconds of Friday’s Foothill League matchup against Golden Valley.
In reality, that word could be used to describe the whole game.
The Cowboys (12-12, 3-5) and Grizzlies (13-10, 3-6) fought a back-and-forth battle at Golden Valley High School, but in the end, it was the Cowboys that came out on top, 45-44, thanks to senior Lincoln Phillips’ layup and free throw with just under a minute to play to snap Canyon’s three-game losing streak in Foothill League play.
“Just put the ball in the hoop, be myself, trust what I’m gonna do,” Phillips said. “I know my teammates, my coaches trust me. So that’s all I need.”
Phillips finished with a game-high 21 points, including seven in the second quarter to spark a Canyon run and five in the fourth to seal the comeback win, knocking down one 3-pointer and all eight of his free throw attempts to go along with seven rebounds. The Cowboys finished the game on an 8-2 run.
“Lincoln is a special player, a complete basketball player,” Monfared said. “He can score at all three levels, the 3-point line, the mid range, he can get to the basket. He’s a high IQ player. He’s a high-level defender. He started every game last year on our playoff team that went 18-9. Lincoln is just one of the most versatile players I’ve ever been around, and all the other teams in the Foothill League know that.”
After Phillips made the final basket with 56 seconds to play in the fourth, the Grizzlies were unable to get off a quality shot, and Canyon took over. The Cowboys couldn’t inbound the ball, though, and the Grizzlies got the ball back only to turn it over themselves.
Canyon ended up shooting a one-and-one but missed the front end, and Golden Valley got the ball back with just under a second to play but couldn’t get the final shot off.
“That’s just Foothill League basketball, I think,” Golden Valley head coach Chris Printz said. “Just craziness, two teams that are going to compete to the very last second. I mean, literally, the very last second. Unfortunately, we came up on the wrong side of that tonight, but I’m proud of my team for battling.”
Golden Valley senior Freddy Marion led his team with 18 points, knocking down four 3-pointers. He hit two in the third to cut Canyon’s lead before extending the Grizzlies’ lead in the fourth with another long-range effort.
Printz said that Marion has been clutch for the Grizzlies all year, but especially of late.
“He has been doing it, especially lately has been doing,” Printz said. “His heart, too. I mean, just big rebounds and steals. Our guys just never back down.”
The two teams had a bit of a rough start, with Golden Valley claiming a 9-6 lead after the first quarter. The Cowboys found their rhythm after that, taking a 25-19 lead into the half.
Canyon sophomore Eric Kubel was a big part of that, knocking down one three as part of a six-point second quarter. He finished with 11 points.
Monfared isn’t surprised that Kubel is having an influence on games as a sophomore, as he’s been watching the young shooter put in the work every day at practice, often spending more than an hour working on his shots after practice.
“Offensively, I’m not surprised by anything he does, quite frankly because he’s all skill,” Monfared said. “Everything you see is work that he puts in. And as he continues to get older and better, he’s gonna be an absolute problem for everybody. I’m really excited to see his development.”
Golden Valley senior Deon Lopez had seven points and eight rebounds, six on the offensive end, to go along with six steals. Marion added three steals while five Grizzlies handed out at least one assist.
The Grizzlies put together a 9-0 run to start the fourth to take their first lead since the early in the second quarter, but weren’t able to keep up the consistent scoring.
“I think fouls started adding up, so teams got to the free throw line,” Printz said. “So that helped a little bit in the first half. We’re both teams that want to defend first, and obviously the score kind of reflects that.”
The Grizzlies were playing without senior Joseph Miller, who Printz said has been dealing with concussion symptoms for over a month now. Miller attempted to come back on Tuesday against Hart but was unable to finish the game and sat out Friday as a precaution.
“It’s a tremendous challenge,” Printz said of playing without his three-year varsity player. “My heart just goes out to the kid, because, for a senior especially, to not be able to play, this is his third year on the varsity, and to not be able to finish … We’re trying to do everything we can for him, but my heart goes out for him.”
Golden Valley will play host to Saugus on Tuesday at 6:30 p.m. in what is the final stretch of the season. The Grizzlies have only four games left on their schedule, three in the Foothill League.
Canyon will travel to Valencia on Tuesday at 6:30 p.m. The Cowboys also have four games left, all of them in the Foothill League.
“We’re not looking past Valencia at this point,” Monfared said. “We’re going to enjoy the win tonight, and as cliche as it sounds, we’re going to come tomorrow, watch film and just get better. We had a stretch the last week or so where we were scoring the ball a lot better, but we weren’t defending at the highest level, and Canyon teams defend, always. Tonight, we defended at a high level but we didn’t put the ball in the basket as much. So, if we can put those two sides together, that’s really all we’re concerned about.”