Clutch shot leads Westview past St. Mary’s
Friday was a big night for a Westview senior making his final home appearance of the regular season.
John Gray hit a dramatic 3-pointer from the deep right corner with 4 seconds remaining in overtime to propel the Knights to a 59-56 victory over visiting Phoenix St. Mary’s.
“I had to shoot because time was running out,” Gray said. “I was confident I could hit the shot. I knew when I let it go I had it. It was a great play by Isaiah [Bellamy] to find me for the open shot. It was my biggest shot of the year.”
“It’s not how we drew it up but it worked,” coach Brendan McEvoy said of the deciding sequence. “I was OK with John taking that shot. We were going to go into Dre [Adams] but they all went that way. We had guys in good rebounding position in case John missed the shot.
“That was a big shot. John Gray has come so far for us.”
St. Mary’s still had an opportunity to further prolong the game. Coach Ty Amundsen, who guided Estrella Foothills to three straight Class 3A state titles earlier this century, called two timeouts to set up a last-ditch attempt to send the game to a second overtime. However, Jon Rivera’s 3-point attempt at the buzzer came up short.
The victory assured Westview (19-5) of the Section IV championship. Even if it were to lose its final two regular-season contests, Laveen Cesar Chavez could only tie for the lead and Westview owns the tiebreaker with a 50-48 victory over the Champions.
Westview and St. Mary’s remained close throughout. There were 16 lead changes and 10 ties.
St. Mary’s largest lead was six points on two occasions, and Westview’s largest advantage was four points twice.
Westview could have put the game away in regulation had it done a better job at the charity stripe. Westview converted only 5 of 12 free-throw opportunities, including missing the front end of a one-and-one, leaving a potential eight points at the line.
“We’ve been hot and cold from the free-throw line all season,” McEvoy said.
Ironically it was a missed free throw by St. Mary’s freshman point guard Marcus Shaver that opened the door for Westview to grab the win.
With the score tied 56-56 in overtime, Shaver missed the front end of a one-and-one opportunity with 1:12 left after having made his first six free throws.
Westview then held the ball, setting up Gray’s game-winner.
Slow start for Westview
St. Mary’s opened a quick 5-0 lead behind a Nate Anaya basket and a 3-pointer by Shaver.
Andre Adams got Westview on the scoreboard with a hoop at the 6:38 mark.
An Anaya triple made it 8-2, favoring the visitors.
St. Mary’s led 11-5 when Westview went on an 8-0- run to take its first lead of the game, 13-11, with 2:46 left in the opening quarter.
Storme Donahue began the run with a pair of 3-pointers and Adams finished it emphatically with a dunk off a pass from Gray.
Isaiah Walton hit a shot at the buzzer to cut Westview’s lead to 18-16 after 8 minutes.
St. Mary’s forged a 30-25 lead late in the second stanza but a Bellamy hoop made it 30-27 at intermission.
Westview scored the first six points of the third quarter to take a 33-30 lead, but it was short lived as St. Mary’s countered with a pair of triples by Anaya, taking a 36-33 lead.
Three free throws by Shaver with 17 seconds left in the quarter gave St. Mary’s a 42-41 lead entering the fourth period.
The teams remained close and Westview clung to a 54-51 lead when Adams drove down the lane for a bucket with 59 seconds remaining.
St. Mary’s tied the game at 54-54 on a three-point play by Shaver.
McEvoy called a timeout with 17 seconds left to set up a potential game-winning play. Donahue took a shot from the corner with 4 seconds remaining but missed. Kendall Barnes rebounded the ball but his follow-up fell short, sending the game to overtime.
Westview took a 56-54 lead 31 seconds into overtime on a Bellamy basket. Shaver tied it at 56-56 with a hoop at the 1:51 mark, setting up Gray’s heroics.
“We struggled early to get our offense going,” McEvoy said.
Bellamy, who scored 18 points and grabbed a game-high 14 rebounds, concurred.
“I think we came out a little slow,” Bellamy said. “We should have gone down to the post more. We picked it up in the second half.
“I came out slow in the beginning. At halftime, Coach said, ‘Just play your game.’ I picked it up in the second half.”
In addition to Bellamy’s 18 points, Adams had 14 and Donahue added 10.
Shaver paced St. Mary’s with 20 points and Anaya had 19.
“I thought we did a good job on [Shaver],” McEvoy said. “He averages 25 points per game and we held him to 20.”
An ankle injury sustained earlier in the week against Phoenix Sunnyslope hobbled Shaver a bit, Amundsen said.
St. Mary’s knocked down 10 3-pointers led by Anaya’s four and Shaver’s three.
“We were a little slow in closing out on the 3’s,” Bellamy said.
Westview held a 38-32 edge on the boards. Adams supported Bellamy’s 14 rebounds with six boards. He also had two blocks and two assists. Donahue also had six rebounds.
Abel Navarrette led St. Mary’s with eight rebounds and Shaver had seven.
Both coaches were pleased with their team’s rebounding effort.
“I was really proud of the way we hit the boards,” McEvoy said. “It’s hard to rebound out of a zone. Our guards did a good job of keeping their guys boxed out.
“Isaiah’s 14 rebounds were the difference.”
“They played hard,” Amundsen said of his young team, featuring nine freshmen. “I’m proud of the guys. They fought hard. We banged with a bigger team.”
Westview concludes the regular season this week with games at Phoenix Central on Tuesday and a trip to Phoenix Alhambra Thursday.
“Central will be a tough game,” McEvoy said.
Mike Russo can be reached by email at email@example.com.