Kyle Murphy’s free throw with .03 seconds left proved to be the final piece of an improbable play that propelled Pinewood School to a 47-46 win over Woodside Priory in Friday’s Central Coast Section Division V boys basketball final.
The play began with 2.4 seconds left when savvy senior guard Greg Naumann – inbounding the ball under his own basket after Priory’s game-tying 3-pointer – heaved the pass into the front court to Murphy. He drove to the basket and drew the foul – to the disbelief of Priory players, coaches and fans anticipating overtime at Notre Dame De Namur University in Belmont.
Murphy sank his first attempt, guaranteeing Pinewood its fourth consecutive CCS crown. The sophomore said he didn’t feel the pressure when he stepped to the line and credited Naumann with putting him in position to be the hero.
“It was a really smart play by Greg,” Murphy said. “It was all him.”
Coach Mani Messy praised both Panthers for making the play, set up during a timeout.
“We talked about how much time was on the clock, and we wanted to get at least one look at the rim,” Messy said. “Kyle played it perfectly and Greg threw a great pass.”
Messy had no doubt Murphy would come through at the foul line.
“He’s got clutch in his genes. He’s knocked down some big shots before,” the coach said. “That’s not the first time he’s been in that moment, so he knows exactly what to do.”
Top-seeded Pinewood (23-4) has played plenty of close games this season. The Panthers have won five out of six games decided by three points or less, including a buzzer-beating overtime victory against Sacred Heart Prep.
“We know how to finish these games,” said Naumann, a member of all four CCS champion teams. “We’ve been playing a lot together and all believed we could do it.”
In the first half of Friday’s game, it looked like Pinewood would win in runaway fashion. The Panthers led 18-4 after the opening quarter – behind eight points from Aidan Lucero – and scored the first points of the second on David Bodine’s baseline jumper.
No. 2 Priory (16-10) responded with a 9-2 run ignited by back-to-back putbacks from Andy Isokpehi. The springy 6-foot-6 junior – who scored his team’s first points of the night on a breakaway slam dunk – totaled a game-high 16 points and blocked three shots.
“He’s a handful, for sure,” Messy said of Isokpehi.
Pinewood’s lead, 28-15 at halftime, dwindled to seven points as the fourth quarter began. The West Bay Athletic League rivals traded 3s to start the period, with Ryan Brice connecting for the Panthers. He scored seven of his team-high 14 points in the quarter, including a pair of clutch free throws that put Pinewood up 44-41 with 30 seconds remaining.
“Ryan made some big plays and big free throws at the end there,” Messy said. “He wants that last shot and wants to be at the free-throw line with no time on the clock. So for him, it’s routine.”
Pinewood now advances to the Northern California playoffs, which is becoming routine as well. The Panthers, seeded seventh, are scheduled to host No. 10 Forest Lake Christian (25-4) 7 p.m. today.
The winner is slated to visit No. 2 St. Joseph Notre Dame (27-5) 7 p.m. Saturday in the quarterfinals.
CCS boys basketball Div. 5 semifinals: Pinewood High School - Photos by Ellie Van Houtte/Town Crier