PRESSURE POINT: Cameron Mercadel, who is known more his offensive prowess, turns up his defense in the title game of the 13th Annual Spartan Classic on November 12 at home in front of a crowd of supporters
With 1.8 seconds left on the scoreboard, Mercadel grabbed the missed free throw by 6-foot-6 freshman shooting guard Brayden Kyman and heaved the basketball towards his basket from beyond half-court in hopes of making a desperation prayer shot. It wasn’t answered.
“We know (Cameron) is a great shooter. We know he shoots from deep so our guards were up in him tight to make sure he didn’t do any crazy,’’ said Kyman about their strategy to keep Mercadel from exploding offensively.
During crunch time, the undersized Spartans gradually cut the lead to a point. Until this point, the Eagles owned the boards and had thwarted Orangewood’s every offensive assault. With less than five minutes remaining in the stanza, power forward Rockwell Reynold, the Eagles’ 6-foot-8 senior, fouled out of the game.
“Our big man fouled out which meant we didn’t have much size on the court,’’ Kyman said. “But we showed a lot of heart and (came out with the win).”
Kyman, who earned tournament MVP honors, made key shots throughout the contest and led all scores with 15 points. Ethan Rhee, a 6-foot-3 point guard, added 11 points, and Cameron McNamee, a 6-foot-5 junior guard, tossed in 10 points.
“We came off a great win. We won the championship,’’ Kyman said. “It was a tough game. The crowd was super loud in here. We just stayed together.’’
What kept the Spartans with striking range? Thanks to a mid-range jump shot and free throws by Mercadel; free throws by Alier Bech, a 6-foot-8 center; a high-arching fadeaway turn-around jumper by 6-0 junior guard Dylan Galvan; and Clark’s and L.J. Brown’s 3-pointers.
“(Cameron) was our great teammate and friend but he left. We had to move on,’’ Kyman said.
Prior to Mercadel’s last ditch effort to score, with 5.6 seconds left on the clock, he inbounded a pass into the post to Bech who missed a point-blank shot at the basket after trying to power through the contact. No foul called. Somehow, Kyman ended up shooting 1-and-1 free throw, missing it which led the last-second shot by Mercadel.
“‘Coach was trying to get the ball to the big. We trust him to score down below so that was our best look. Unfortunately, it didn’t go in,” said Mercadel, who had transferred from Santa Margarita recently. Mercadel and his teammate, Kole Clark, finished with 14 each to lead the Spartans.
“We played extremely well. Everybody played hard,’’ said Mercadel who played physical, tough in-your-face defense throughout the contest and who elevated high for a block shot in the first quarter.
“Before the game, everybody thought we were going to lose by 15 to 20 points. We showed that we can play at the highest level… I am proud of the guys tonight.”