Hart Indians boys’ basketball fell short in its comeback as the team was defeated on Tuesday by the hosting Canyon Cowboys.
Canyon won the battle, 44-43, which bumps the Cowboys up to fourth place in the Foothill League.
The Cowboys (14-13, 5-6) were led by senior Lincoln Phillips with 17 points, three assists, two blocks and a pair of steals.
The Cowboys’ defense again kept them in a close game. Hart senior Devon Strong is an explosive guard but was limited to just seven points on the night. Strong was double-teamed and trapped near mid-court throughout the game, forcing other Indians to step up.
Hart’s Elias Bookhart answered that call and took a beating in the paint on his way to a double-double.
“Basketball’s a physical game and sometimes you have to pain through it,” Bookhart said. “My boys got a lot of the calls but we just have to finish. It’s a physical game so we have to play through.”
Bookhart finished his night with 24 points, 10 rebounds and two steals. The senior tied the score at 42-42 after consecutive fourth-quarter turnovers from the Indians.
Cowboys point guard Tyler Miller was able to draw a clutch charging foul in crunch time to fire the team up before the game-winning play.
“They know what we’re going to do and we know what they’re going to do,” Canyon head coach Ali Monfared said. “It just comes down to little plays that you might not see on a stat sheet.”
Canyon senior Tyler Best found forward Carson Rodi for the go-ahead layup that ended up being enough to defeat Hart.
The Indians nearly stole the game in a chaotic final sequence. Hart was aiming to intentionally foul but the Cowboys ran a perfect inbound play where Phillips somehow had a wide-open lane to the basket. The Canyon captain was sprinting from the potential foul and wound up missing the layup that could have iced the game.
Instead, Hart junior Joseph Montes came up with the rebound and a little time left in the game. Montes rocketed back up the floor as the Indians were out of timeouts and just missed a game-winning 3-ball. Bookhart came down with his 10th rebound of the night but couldn’t score the offensive putback up before the buzzer sounded.
The win evened the series for Canyon, who had one of its worst games of the season in round one with the Indians. Hart won the game, 40-28, holding the Cowboys to the program’s lowest scoring output in decades, but Tuesday night renewed the rivalry.
“Last time, we came on more physical,” Bookhart said. “This game, they were more physical. They controlled us. They played how they wanted to and they got the shots they wanted.”
The Cowboys played solid defense throughout the night and never gave up more than 14 in a quarter of play. Canyon held Hart to just seven points in the third. It was just the performance Monfared wanted to see from his guys.
“Just to play our best defense,” Phillips said on the message at halftime. “Us seniors, it’s our last season and we wanted to come out with a win and give us a better chance of making the playoffs. Our younger guys helped us step up and we did it. We pulled through.”
Canyon now steps back into the fourth seed in the Foothill League. The Cowboys can secure a postseason berth with a win on Friday. Hart can force a tie in fourth place with a Friday win but both teams will have tough final games ahead of them.
“I’m a big believer that momentum doesn’t transfer from game to game in league with every opponent being so different,” Monfared said. “But we feel good about what we’re doing right now. It feels good to get a result like this even though it’s not about winning and losing.”
The Cowboys remain home to host Saugus Friday at 6:30 p.m. while the Indians return to their home court for round two with Valencia.
“Staying together. That’s kind of been an inconsistency with us,” Phillips said. “But right now, whether we’re at our greatest right now or not, it’s going to have to be a great game on Friday.”