Smith comes in the “clutch” for Blazers
By Patrick Dillon
visalia – It was a battle of the top two teams in the, West Yosemite League (WYL), as the Golden West Trailblazers (22-5; 8-3) finally defeated the Redwood Rangers (21-5; 8-3) 68-67 in overtime. It all came down to a clutch shot by Golden West’s Shemar Smith. Smith had a little help though, even if it was from the other team as the Rangers mishandled the ball allowing time to run out.
With only 32 seconds left Redwood’s Kobe Garner stood at the free throw line. Already having made the first free throw to give his team a 67-65 lead, he attempted his second.
The ball bounced off its mark and Golden West’s Hunter Bayne snatched it out of the air as the clock clicked down to less than 30 seconds. Eventually the ball came to Smith, who immediately squared his shoulders and fired up one of the biggest three point shot in his high school career.
No doubt Smith became the most religious person in the Blazers Gym as the ball traveled through the air and then circled the rim of the hoop, time and time again.
“I was just praying to every god that the shot would go in,” said Smith.
It didn’t take long for Smith’s prayers to be answered as the ball, after what seemed like an eternity, fell through the net to give the Blazers the lead 68-67.
“Clutch,” was the only word that Golden West head coach Drew Hall could use to describe the Smith’s game winner. “That is just senior leadership and putting in extra time at practice.”
With time still remaining the Rangers brought the ball up the court. Soon after crossing half court there was a whistle with 2.2 seconds remaining. Everyone on the Blazers bench though it was a foul against the Rangers but the referee called traveling, effectively giving the ball back to the Rangers
Naturally the images of the Blazers past near misses this year against the Rangers began to circulate. First, the Blazers lost in the finals of the Polly Wilhelmsen on Dec. 2, when the Rangers held on to win 61-58. The Rangers defeated the Blazers again on Jan. 12, 66-55.
But this time the clock ran out on the Rangers as the Blazers pounced on the ball when Garner was not able to handle the inbounds pass.
“I’m just so happy for these boys and how hard they work. We just stick to what we do and believe it is going to happen and tonight it did,” said Coach Hall. “It’s just good for the school in general.”
Playing for their season the Blazers battled back and forth with the Rangers earlier in the overtime period. The Blazers actually took the lead with a layup 59-57.
That was followed by a nine point run by the Rangers in order for them to pull ahead 66-59.
The ability to overcome each of their deficits was in large part due to Smith’s 23 points, which included 11 in overtime.
“My team put me in the perfect spot to win,” said Smith. “We won a game that we had to.”
With the win the Blazers now have a new hope of winning at least a share of the West Yosemite League (WYL) title. Before the game the Redwood Rangers were alone in first place with an 8-2 record. Now the Blazers are tied with the Rangers at the top.
While the Blazers were able to safely defeat the Lemoore Tigers (7-20; 2-9) 57-50 two days later there is no room for a loss going into the last week of the regular season.
In a tie for second place at 7-4 in the WYL are the Hanford Bullpups and the El Diamante Miners.
The Blazers will wrap up their season at home against the El Diamante Miners (19-8; 7-4). On the line is at least a share of the WYL title. Then again depending on what happens between the Redwood Rangers and the Mt. Whitney Pioneers the outright title could be their’s. The school’s first since 2007.