M. Basketball: Last-second shot sends Falcons to 3rd Round

Riley Hamilton is swarmed after hitting the game-winning three-pointer against Riverside
Riley Hamilton is swarmed after hitting the game-winning three-pointer against Riverside

UPDATE: The Falcons will be hosting #13-seeded Santiago Canyon College, who upset #4-seeded East Los Angeles College, 94-89. The Hawks (21-9) are led by two of the state's top leading scorers, Rodney Henderson (27.0 ppg) and Antoine Jenkins (25.9 ppg). The Hawks also ranks fourth  in the state with in scoring at 89.9 points per game, while they're also third in the state with 346 three-pointers made on the year. Saturday's playoff game will also mark the first time the two teams will have every played each other.

Cerritos College sophomore guard Riley Hamilton (Rancho Verde HS) has a flair for the dramatic. On Friday, Hamilton hit a three-pointer with 1.8 seconds left in the third overtime to give the Falcons a 76-75 win over visiting #12-seeded Riverside City College (16-11) in the second round of the Southern California Regional Playoffs. The win by #5-seeded Cerritos (25-5) advances them to the third round and they will play next Saturday. The location of the game will be determined based on the winner of the Santiago Canyon-East Los Angeles winner, which takes place tomorrow. A win by Santiago Canyon and the Falcons will be at home, while a Huskies win sends Cerritos to East Los Angeles, the same location their season came to an end in 2016.

The triple overtime playoff game was just the third in Falcon history. The other two were state championship game victories over Pasadena City College in 1983 and 1968. The win was also the 10th straight home victory for the Falcons.

Earlier in the season, Hamilton drained a sideline three-pointer with 2.1 seconds left to defeat Antelope Valley in the semifinals of the Clete Adelman Classic.

A 72% free throw shooting team on the season, Cerritos struggled from the line in the second half and in the overtime periods. They were 15-of-28 on the night, which included going 8-for-20 in the final 35 minutes of the game.

However, Riverside had a chance to close out the game in the third overtime, but could not convert their attempts from the charity stripe. Leading 72-70, both Kane Daniels and Demetrius Murray made one of two attempts with less than a minute left, which made the score 74-70. After a missed three-pointer from sophomore Demetrius Thomas (Bassick, CT HS/Porterville College), Jared Stokes missed both free throw attempts with :22 seconds left in the third overtime, which kept the Falcons hopes alive. Thomas then grabbed an offensive rebound and scored while getting fouled with 11.6 seconds left. After converting the three-point play to make the score, 74-73, both teams took timeouts.

Daniels was fouled with 9.2 seconds remaining and made one of two free throws, making it a 75-73 Riverside lead. Pushing the ball up the court, freshman guard Christian Alvis (Whittier Christian HS) spotted Hamilton, who hit his first three-pointer of the game with 1.8 seconds left, putting the Falcons in front. Andre Wilson got off a half court shot that was off line, and Cerritos escaped with the win.

"We were looking to drive the ball and possibly get fouled," said Hamilton. "But Christian saw me open and I knew we needed to get a shot off. We won the game, and that's all that matters."

Leading by as many as 12 points in the first half, Cerritos started going cold in the latter parts of the game. All the while, the Tigers started to find their rhythm from the field and finally took their first lead of the game, 51-49 with 1:33 left in regulation after a Daniels three-pointer. On their next possession, sophomore Jonathan Guzman (Paramount HS) connected on a short jumper to tie the game with 1:08 left, while he was fouled on the play. Guzman missed the free throw and after a Riverside turnover, the Falcons missed their chance to take a late lead. The clock ran out and the teams were headed to their first of three five-minute overtimes.

In each of the overtimes, it looked like either team would come away with the win. Cerritos led in the first overtime, 60-58, but after Hamilton fouled Wilson attempting a three-pointer, he converted all three shots for a 61-60 Tigers lead with 1:03 left. The Falcons tied it with 45.2 seconds when sophomore Keshaun Mack (Long Beach Jordan HS/Antelope Valley College) netted one of two free throws. Riverside had two chances to win the game, but missed both shot attempts, sending the game to a second overtime. In the second extra period, Hamilton made a pair of free throws with 12.0 seconds left for a 67-64 lead. Playing without their two leading scorers who had fouled out, Wilson drained a three-pointer with 5.4 seconds left to tie the game and extended it to a third overtime period.

Then, in the third overtime, the Tigers took a 72-69 lead when seldom-used Tian Daniels came off the bench to hit a baseline three-pointer with 1:34 remaining, in what looked like the final dagger against the Falcons. But they took advantage of Riverside's missed free throws (7-for-16 in overtime) to come away with the win.

Thomas, who had 17 first half points, finished the night with 25 points, 14 rebounds, three assists and three steals, while Mack scored eight of his 12 points in overtime. Hamilton ended with 10 points and five rebounds, with Guzman posting 10 points, 10 rebounds and four assists. Brae Ivey led the Tigers with 18 points before fouling out, with Wilson scoring 17 points.

Photos by Daryl Peterson