Selma High had the lead, the ball, a raucous crowd of 1,450-plus howling at the top of their collective lungs and 37.1 seconds standing between all of that and a date in the CIF Southern California Regional Division III boys basketball semifinals.
But the most successful season in school history came to a stunning end at the hands of an NCAA Division I-bound player adept at making clutch shots.
UC Irvine recruit Michael Diaz hit a floater over a trio of Bears defenders, including 6-foot-6 Tiveon Stroud, with 1.2 seconds left that helped send No. 14 Orange Glen-Escondido to a 64-61 victory over No. 6 Selma in a quarterfinal game Saturday.
“It’s hard to lose the way we lost,” Selma coach Mike Pallesi said.
The Bears, who trailed most of the second half, took a 61-60 lead with 49 seconds left when William Pallesi hit a 3-pointer that sent the partisan crowd into a frenzy.
“It was nuts,” Orange Glen coach Chris Featherly said.
It’s hard to lose the way we lost.
Selma coach Mike Pallesi on a last-second loss to Orange Glen-Escondido in the CIF Southern California Regional
And the crowd got even louder when the Patriots turned it over on their next possession, giving Selma the ball with 37.1 seconds left. But the Bears missed a shot off a baseline drive and Orange Glen rebounded with 13 seconds to go.
The Patriots (23-9) hustled and got the ball to Diaz, who Wednesday made a shot at the buzzer to force overtime en route to a 68-65 win over Capistrano Valley.
Diaz this time drove the lane and lifted a shot that Stroud appeared to miss by an inch. When it fell through the net, Orange Glen was up 62-61.
Selma threw the ensuing inbound pass out of bounds, and the Patriots got an easy basket from Caedon Palmer at the buzzer while advancing to face second-seeded Villa Park in the regional semifinals Tuesday.
“It’s almost better to lose by a blowout,” Mike Pallesi said. “To hit the big shot, have the crowd go crazy, you think you just might do it. And then they go and steal it.”
William Pallesi finished with 23 points and Stroud added 21 for Selma, which set a school record for wins in a 30-5 season highlighted by its first Central Section championship in 103 years and the school’s first state playoff victory, 61-53 over No. 11 Van Nuys on Wednesday.
All six of the Bears who scored against Orange Glen are juniors whom Mike Pallesi expects to be back for another run next season.
“We had a vision when these kids were in the fourth and fifth grade, when they didn’t know what a Valley championship was about,” Mike Pallesi said. “I told them if they stuck together, they’ll win a Valley title and they’ve been fighting ever since. This is what small communities are all about. Playing from the time you are little. Being loyal to your community and teammates.”
Orange Glen-Escondido 64, Selma 61
OG (23-9): Michael Diaz 12, Devin Diaz 11, Damian Miller 3, Doup Chuol 11, Ryan Filoteo 3, Nikola Kresovich 13, Caedon Palmer 11.
S (30-5): Manny Singh 4, Karan Singh 4, Ashman Dosnajh 4, William Pallesi 23, Junior Ramirez 5, Tiveon Stroud 21.