T.J. Lipold is starting to like these situations.
For the second straight season, Lipold made a huge three-pointer to lift his team into the State tournament. Last season, Lipold sank a three-pointer with 14 seconds left for a one-point win over Chaffey in the Regional final.
This year’s edition came on the road in the sixth-seeded Saddleback men’s basketball team’s 73-69 overtime victory over third-seeded Riverside in a Southern California Regional final Saturday (March 6).
Saddleback improved to 26-5 and will advance to its 13th State tournament and seventh in the last 10 seasons. Saddleback will be the fourth-seeded team from Southern California and the seventh-seed in the State tournament.
The Gauchos draw Northern California’s first seed and second seed in the State tournament, the Ohlone College Renegades, Friday (March 12) at Cal Lutheran University in Thousand Oaks. Ohlone is 24-4 overall and is the Coast Conference champions.
After trailing Riverside 36-29 at halftime, Saddleback had to muster a great effort to end Tigers’ season as they did to the Gauchos in last season’s State final.
The Gauchos forced overtime with a 29-22 second half, but lost the 24 points of Tyler McManaman along with Wendell Faines and Perry Webster on foul outs.
Saddleback and Riverside traded points in the overtime and the Gauchos led by one with 20 seconds left.
Lipold launched a three from the corner to give the Saddleback a four-point cushion with 18 seconds left.
Two Nathan Gibbs free throws gave the Gauchos a six-point lead before Riverside sliced the lead in half with a 40-foot three-pointer with five seconds remaining.
Kyle Wallace closed the game with two free throws.
Aside from his team-high 24 points, McManaman added five rebounds.
Lipold put in 11 points with three rebounds and two assists, and Webster added 11 points, four rebounds, four assists and a steal.
Saddleback finally found its season-lost shooting stroke going 46.8 percent from the field, 44.4 percent from three-point range and 62.8 percent from the free-throw line.
Saddleback’s full effort upset win against the Orange Empire Conference champions healed one wound from last season, but it will take three more just like it to sew up the gash of a championship lost.