Junior forward Matt Michael’s rebound and lay-in with two seconds remaining brought the Davis High boys all the way back from a 19-point deficit and the 67-65 victory over visiting Monterey Trail on Wednesday catapulted the Blue Devils into the postseason.
But a chippy second half was marred by ill-tempered comments, matching technical fouls on the opposing coaches and a post-game meeting during which police and school officials stepped between DHS coach Dan Gonzalez and Mustang mentor Ken Manfredi.
The end result was a win that gave the Devils enough qualifying victories in a 16-9 campaign to earn an automatic playoff berth — regardless of what happens in the season finale Friday at Franklin.
Davis, it must be noted, can still earn a share of the Delta Valley Conference title if it beats the Wildcats and Elk Grove pulls off an improbable upset at Grant (19-7, 7-2). The Blue Devils stand at 6-3 in league, tied with Franklin (12-13 overall), which knocked Laguna Creek out of title contention with a 72-51 win Wednesday.
This season’s second matchup between Monterey Trail and DHS provided a heart-stopping final 90 seconds, despite some untoward confrontations.
“It was crazy,” the night’s hero Michael told The Enterprise. “Our coach and the Monterey Trail coach were jawing back and forth. It was crazy.
“But we just played team ball, team defense and we’re really happy to get the win.”
Really happy, considering …
Trailing only 32-30 at the break, the Devils, right after intermission, let a horrible stretch put them in a 49-30 hole. From the last shot of the second quarter until 4:42 of the third period, the Mustangs outscored the locals 19-0. Davis missed its first six shots of the quarter and committed five turnovers.
Meanwhile, The Trail’s Brian Jackson was hitting a couple of treys as their brilliant guard Leondre Lintz scored eight points and swiped two Blue Devil passes. By the time Gonzalez called timeout, it looked like the visitors (9-17, 0-9) were on their way to their first conference win.
But suddenly, DHS began to chip away.
Brandon Strong’s 3-pointer stopped the bleeding.
Kevin Sorensen (who would figure in the messy ending) laid in a Grant Dickerson pass.
A flagrant foul on Hayden Russell — which drew protests from the senior leader and his coach — gave the Mustangs an opportunity to pull farther ahead.
But Victor Wariso hit only one of his free throws and The Trail turned over their free possession.
After another hard foul — which had become vogue as the game went on — Sorensen missed his second charity toss, only to rebound the errant ball himself and score two. Davis had closed the gap to 52-42 as neither team scored in the last 1:41 of the period.
A minute into the fourth quarter, Michael’s huge 3-pointer followed a Strong lay-in as the Devils closed to 52-47.
But Sorensen’s apparent baseline bucket was reversed (a charge was called), then Dickerson looked in position to defend Lintz, but the Mustang got the 50-50 call and free throws.
Gonzalez asked the ref the wrong question and the ensuing technical foul gave Lintz the opportunity to sink four consecutive free throws. With only 4:18 remaining, Monterey Trail had built its lead back to 61-52.
From there, artistically, the game deteriorated but with DHS getting a lion’s share of the remainder of the officials’ blessings.
“We started making a run … and it looked like the game was beginning to be called very tight,” Gonzalez reflected. “I think when a team loses a big lead, you’re kind of beside yourself. For us to battle back … I think everything was big for both teams and tempers became part of that.”
Sorensen, now playing with four fouls, found Russell open for two. Then Strong — usually a long-range hawkeye — streaked inside for a basket.
A Mustang score put things at 63-56 until Blue Devil guard Ben Crook scored inside and made an accompanying free throw.
With MTHS nursing that four-point lead with 1:40 left, the atmosphere intensified …
Sorensen fouled out, then passed along an off-color remark to Manfredi as the senior center trotted to the bench. The coach, in turn, wheeled toward Gonzalez and shouted an admonishment about the player’s comment, which officials heard only part of and issued Manfredi — a former UC Davis basketball player in the mid-’90s — his technical.
Russell sank the technical free throws, but Davis squandered its inbounds play and Monterey Trail was able to go up by four again (65-61) with 1:01 to go.
Another Devil turnover with 57 seconds remaining seemed the locals’ death knell.
To the contrary, Strong intercepted an inbounds pass under his own basket, took a step toward a lay-in but was grabbed by Gabriel Tavora. An intentional foul was called, with Strong sinking his shots. However, once again the Blue Devils couldn’t capitalize on their good fortune.
With DHS still down 65-63, Monterey Trail — patient all night – rushed a shot that the Devils turned into a game-tying Strong lay-in off a Russell pass.
The Mustangs gave the ball back as the clock ticked down …
After a Davis miss, the ball circuitously found its way to Michael inside to the left of the basket. His point-blank bucket ended the on-court agony.
Sorensen and Strong led the Devils with 16 points apiece and Russell added 15. But it was Michael’s big night — seven timely points and seven rebounds — that stole the show.
Notes: “We just showed the heart of a champion,” DHS assistant coach Josh Reese said afterward. … Manfredi seemingly was gracious while congratulating the Blue Devil players after the game, but rankled Gonzalez when he pointed a finger at the 15-year Davis coach and yelled: “Get control of your kids!” It was at that point DHS Athletic Director Dennis Foster and a DPD officer walked between the coaches. Fortunately, the scene evolved into a Blue Devil celebration as passions simmered. … It was Senior Night at DHS and the nine 12th-graders — Hayden Duer, James Kilkenny, Adam King, Tommy Slabaugh, Daniel Bonetti, Mikie Schlosser, Russell, Dickerson and Sorensen — were honored while accompanied by family in pre-game ceremonies.