SAN JUAN CAPISTRANO - 13 seconds remained in first round action of the California Division I state tournament between 12th-seeded Rancho Verde and fifth-seeded Santa Margarita. Rancho Verde led by three, until Santa Margarita center Jordan Guest drilled a three to tie the game at 54 with two seconds left.
Rancho Verde called a timeout and took the ball out from under their own basket. Jaxen Turner took off from the elbow, came off a cross screen, took two dribbles to half court and drained it at the buzzer to win the game, 57-54.
“This was incredible,” he said. “I saw it go in, fell to the floor and felt a huge rush of adrenaline” Turner scored a game-high 30 points, 10 of them in the fourth quarter. “This was such a crazy, back-and-forth game,” head coach Brandon Baker said. “We didn’t really want to go to overtime with Santa Margarita because, well, they are really good.”
Rancho Verde took a 28-25 lead into halftime, as the teams traded basket-after-basket. Junior guard Tory San Antonio stole the ball and went coast to coast for a layup late in the third quarter to put Rancho Verde up four.
Jake Kyman responded three plays after for Santa Margarita, hitting a jumper to make the score 38-36 with less than three minutes left in the quarter. Turner hit a three out of a Rancho Verde timeout, Max Agbonkpolo of Santa Margarita fired back with a layup, and Rancho Verde’s Derrick Nettles scored inside just before the buzzer to put the Mustangs up 43-38 after three.
Kyman led Santa Margarita with 23 points, after missing the last two Southern Section playoff games. Guest, a six-foot-eight Boston University-commit, controlled the paint for Santa Margarita and shot well from the outside. “Coach Reinert told us he was proud of us and the way we played,” Guest said. “We have been a real aggressive team, and coach was proud of our effort.”
Prior to Thursday’s game, Rancho Verde hadn’t played in over a week, a loss to Pasadena in the Southern Section playoffs. Their first round matchup was supposed to be played at Santa Margarita on Wednesday, but a bomb threat forced the game to be moved back one day and relocated to JSerra Catholic. “The last four days we went really hard in practice,” Turner said. “We got mentally prepared and came in knowing we could beat them.”
Santa Margarita finishes the season at 20-10 overall, including two quality wins over St. John Bosco and another against Pasadena. The Eagles retain Kyman and Agbonkpolo for next season, two highly-touted recruits with bright basketball futures.
Rancho Verde advances to face fourth-seeded Rancho Christian (28-4 overall) in the second round.