They went from Central Section favorites, to crisis, to reclamation project.
And then this last-minute miracle Wednesday night for the Central High Grizzlies.
Sophomore L.J. Moore skied to save a pass from sailing into the bleachers and gained control of the basketball. Then, literally from his tiptoes, he shot a rainbow 3-pointer in front of his father, Lawrence, that kissed nothing but twine.
"Whatever works," said Moore, whose heels were raised above the out-of-bounds line when he fired from the right corner.
The shot occurred with 24.4 seconds left, Central strongly defended a final Clovis possession that resulted in a last-second missed 3-pointer, and the 11th-seeded Grizzlies won 43-42 over the No. 6 Cougars in a Division I first-round playoff game.
"There's no tricks," said Central coach Loren LeBeau, whose team trailed by 12 points late in the third quarter. "Just weather the storm and believe."
No tricks? Really?
Video recording the game was Bullard coach Tony Amundsen, whose third-seeded Knights (24-6) will play host to the Grizzlies (10-16) in Friday's quarterfinals.
What he recorded in black and orange was the story of the year in section basketball.
A D-I runner-up in 2009 and a Tri-River Athletic Conference co-champion last year, Central marched into this season deep, experienced and the clear choice to win the D-I title.
Then came an out-of-town incident in December that led to nine players, four of them starters, being dismissed.
LeBeau examined the leftovers – five juniors, two sophomores and three freshmen: "I was fearful."
The Grizzlies went 2-8 in the TRAC, but made a statement: Four of the losses in the section's premier league were by six points or fewer. And Central closed league with a 57-52 conquest of defending D-I champion Clovis East.
But a third-straight loss to Clovis surely was in order when the Cougars combined the backcourt play of Austin Ikeda – easing the loss of Donnell Vercher (broken foot) – with inside force Korey Anderson to lead 36-24 in the final minute of the third quarter.
Central's Darryl Hardy, a senior and former varsity two-year player who returned to the team in late December, made a 3-pointer to end the third.
The Grizzlies, who had missed 25 of their past 26 3-pointers entering the game, then received two 3s from freshman Murshid Randle to further reduce the gap.
Anderson's layup for the last of his 19 points gave Clovis (15-12) a 42-40 lead with 35 seconds remaining.