Sunset shocks Westview on Reese tip-in
Right place, right time, the right man for the job.
Inserted for offensive rebounding purposes on Ethan Tubby's free throw attempts, Sunset junior forward Will Reese fulfilled his duty — just not in the way he nor the Apollos would have ever anticipated.
With Sunset tied up at 59-59 against crosstown rival Westview, Tubby's second attempt hit the back rim and spilled to the left side of the court, away from where Reese was stationed, with 6.8 seconds to go in the fourth quarter. Westview collected the loose ball along the baseline, but rather than call timeout tried to outlet the rock up the floor along the right sideline. The ensuing pass went awry, into the awaiting hands of Sunset senior guard Nick Cizik, a football hero on the gridiron with a knack for coming up with huge catches in the clutch. Cizik dribbled once and stepped into a long three from the left wing that looked online but softly hit the back half of the tin.
Yet, waiting underneath the rim in a crouched position was Reese, who had instinctively fanned back toward the basket as Cizik fired from deep. And Cizik's carom came off, with Westview's bigs out on the perimeter trying to chase Sunset's shooters, the 6-foot-6 Reese rose over 5-foot-10 Westview senior guard Eric Anderson and tipped the ball off the right corner of the glass into the net as the buzzer sounded, sealing the last second, come-from-behind 61-59 win for Sunset on Friday night at Sunset High School.
"I was kind of going backward...but I knew I had a couple of seconds to get it off, so I just threw it up and it went in," Reese said with a smile. "I always try to read where the ball is going to bounce and which way it's gonna go. That's how I know where to jump. And then I hope (the ball) is going the same way I'm going."
"I watched (Cizik's shot) loop up and I thought there wasn't going to be any time left — that we were going to overtime," Sunset senior Coleman Newsom said with a laugh. "Then I see Will jump up out of nowhere, use those long arms and I was like 'No way'. It was awesome. He does that a lot in practice and it definitely paid off today."
The Wildcats were in the driver's seat after Tubby's second miss and had a shot to at least get a game-winning attempt up at the hoop. Even a miss would've sent the game to overtime. But the empty possession and live ball turnover just before Reese's heroics had Westview wondering "what if?"
Anderson said Westview thought Tubby was going to make the second free throw, which would've allowed the Wildcats to inbound the ball to Anderson, the fastest man on the floor, with a head of steam, down one with ample time to weave down the floor and get a decent look. But when Tubby missed the second, Westview went into a rushed scramble and lucklessly gave the ball back to Sunset.
Anderson did everything he could to box Reese out, physically muscling the bigger post with a might that superseded his size. But Reese was too long, too tall, too springy and put enough touch on the ball to send Sunset home with a huge victory.
"We kind of freaked," Anderson said. "I have to give it up to (Reese), he got me on that one. Even though there were six seconds left, it all happened so fast. It was really quick. We have to stay poised, keep ourselves together and not get down on each other. When it's those seconds, we have to be prepared because this isn't the last time we'll be in a situation like that."
Reese's game-winner was shocking for everyone not in a Sunset uniform, even the Apollo student section who seemed initially stunned at the sight. But once the gym came to its senses, the fans rushed the Apollo players along the sideline and mobbed together in celebration of a win that snapped Sunset's three-game losing streak. The pandemonium was a suitable punctuation mark on another wild chapter in the Westview-Sunset rivalry with the Apollos' 2008 Metro League title-winning team looking on after being celebrated at halftime.
"It was everything you ever wanted out of a game," Newsom said. "We had a huge crowd, against Westview, on our home court. It really meant a lot to us. We were really happy to show out and get a win for the '08 guys."
"It's always good beating a rival at home, it's always good beating Westview," Reese said.
The game-ending tip was the icing on a 12-point fourth quarter comeback that saw the Apollos go on a 13-1 run to climb back into a contest that Westview controlled for three quarters with defensive dominance. Sunset's catalyst in the comeback was senior guard Tyler Sumner. With Westview focused on slowing down Sunset sophomore sensation Braeden Sato, Sumner took over as the Apollos' primary playmaker. Sumner' sneaky quick right-to-left crossover set up Cizik with a wide open three in the left corner to cut Westview' s lead to 55-54.
After a Westview turnover, Sumner drove left, spotted Newsom alone around the right wing and flipped a skip pass to the senior forward who rattled home the three to bring Sunset within 55-54 with 3:31 to go in the fourth. Later, Sumner smoothly banked home a short jumper that pulled Sunset with 57-56 with 3:10 left.
"Honestly, we were just a lot more aggressive," Newsom said. "We got the ball into the paint more, kicked it out, found shots, kept our eyes open and really made plays for each other. It wasn't necessarily taking more shots, but being strong with the ball and making smart decisions."
As the game grew tighter and Sunset's sure-footed confidence soared, it was the Apollo senior core — Sumner, Newsom and Cizik who led the cavalry charge in the final fame. Down by as much as 53-41 at the beginning of the fourth, Sunset never lost its composure.
"In the huddle going into the fourth quarter, everybody was focused, everybody was intense," Newsom said. "There was no doubt that we were going to win this game. I think everyone really believed that and really wanted it, too. We came out and played like it and that was the difference for us."
Westview's Jack Poling put home a jump hook to extend the Wildcat's lead to 59-56, but Tubby took a Sumner kick out pass along the right wing and swished the game-tying triple in front of the standing Apollo student section to even the count at 59-59 with 2:10 to go. Neither team could summon the sort of tide-shifting bucket down the stretch until Tubby was fouled with 6.8 seconds to go, but couldn't get either offering to drop, setting the stage for the frantic, furious finish.
Westview will undoubtedly be kicking itself the next couple of days, going over the fatal final quarter after playing outstanding on both ends of the floor in the first 24 minutes. Anderson, who's patiently waited his turn at point guard the past two years, was awesome, smothering Sato on defense, using his swirling speed to race past Sunset in the open floor for flashy assists and tough finishes of his own inside. Poling, Andrew Bear and Matthew White found ways to get open against Sunset's 2-3 zone. In the third quarter, Westview withstood a trio of Sunset surges, getting back-to-back and-one three-point plays from Anderson and Poling while playing rugged man-to-man defense. Each time Sunset swung, Westview responded, leading by double digits three separate times in the third.
It was a rough learned lesson for the young Wildcats, who face Beaverton and Jesuit next week before finishing out the regular season with three straight road games. Westview is 11-8 overall and 7-4 in Metro with a No. 28 ranking in the OSAA power rankings.
At 6-6 in Metro and No. 32 in the OSAA power rankings, Sunset would be in the 6A playoff field if the postseason began next week. Currently fifth in the league standings, the Apollos have four more conference games left, all of which are winnable if Sunset plays up to its potential. Sunset could be looking at third in Metro and a better playoff seed if everything falls into place.
"Coming off this win, everybody's going be really focused," Newsom said. "I don't think there's going be a letdown because we know we have something in sight that we need to work for. We don't have to do anything special to keep it rolling. We just have to stay focused and I have no doubt that we'll do that."
Westview senior sharpshooter Shasank Bonthala led the Wildcats with 18 while Anderson added nine points, five dimes and three steals. Poling finished with 15 points. Newsom led Sunset with 15 points and Sato ended the game with 14. Cizik had 12 points, all on three-pointers.