Drew Gillette connected on a game-winning 3-pointer at the buzzer, the Corsairs erased a double-digit halftime deficit, and the College of the Redwoods men’s basketball received a standing ovation from its home fans after downing visiting Southwestern Oregon 91-89 on the final day of the Coach Treggs Corsair Classic, Saturday afternoon at CR.
“It felt like the last nine seconds of that game were a blur,” Gillette, who finished with 22 points half-a-dozen made 3-pointers, said. “It means a lot to us that the community comes out to support us. I hope we gave them a show”
With nine seconds remaining in regulation Redwoods lined up to watch Southwestern’s Alen Alagic step to the line for a 1-and-1. Down 89-88, Redwoods (10-3) head coach Ryan Bisio figured his team would inbound the ball needing a 3-pointer to tie after the normally reliable Alagic made both free-throws.
“We drew up a play for (Gillette) during the timeout, I anticipated (Alagic) would make both shots,” Bisio said. “If you’re going to shoot a three, you want Drew Gillette to shoot it.”
Alagic missed his first attempt.
Redwoods’ Bradley Willis scooped up the rebound and dished it to Zac Claus, who ran into trouble and passed it back to Willis. Willis sent a bee-line pass to Gillette, who rose up a healthy 3-feet behind the right side of the arc and nailed what stands, for now, as the defining moment of a new era in Redwoods men’s basketball.
“It took all 40 minutes to win that game,” Bisio said.
For the first-half of those 40 minutes — amid a 54-point half from Southwestern which saw the visitors connect on nine 3-pointers and lead by as much as 16 points before taking a 54-43 advantage into the break — Redwoods did its best to stay in the game.
Donald Willis, who along with Thomas Nelson co-led Redwoods in scoring with 23 points, made timely buckets to keep his team within striking range and went into the break with 12 points. On the defensive end Donald Willis was tasked with guarding Southwestern’s Jael Vaughn, perhaps the top player on the team.
Vaughn led all scorers with 29 points. The freshman scored 20 in the first-half. Donald Willis held Vaughn to 9 points in the second-half, drawing the freshman into a charge call late and succeeding in keeping Vaughn from the foul-line.
“Not only did Donald press the issue all night for us on the offensive end, but he had by far the toughest defensive assignment for us tonight,” Bisio said. “The effort he gives out on both ends of the court is almost incomprehensible.”
Redwoods began the second-half on a 22-12 run which saw the home team shrink its 11-point halftime deficit all the way down to a 1-point margin as Southwestern’s imposing halftime lead dwindled to a 66-65 buffer with 13:31 to play.
“(At halftime) we felt like they had made their run,” Bisio said. “But we didn’t feel like we had made ours yet.”
For the remaining 13-and-a-half minutes, neither team led by more than a possession.
Redwoods tied up the game four times over the next seven minutes before Gillette connected on one of five second-half 3-pointers, giving Redwoods a 76-75 lead with 6:15 to play.
Nelson hit a pair of shots to force a couple ties before Gillette gave Redwoods the lead. After struggling from the floor early Nelson scored 11 points in a hurry to close out the first-half and added another 12 in the second to keep Redwoods level with Southwestern during the closest 13-plus minutes of basketball that can be had.
“I thought (Nelson) dug deep,” Bisio said. “He’s not a guy you’re going to keep from scoring for an entire game.”
AJ Stubbs, who sat the entirety of the first-half, checked in for the first time with 8:11 to play.
Within 20 seconds the freshman connected on a jumper from the charity stripe, accounting for one of many second-half ties.
“To do what AJ did is beyond difficult,” Bisio said. “He kept himself mentally engaged for the whole game. You could feel his impact on the game in your bones.”
Redwoods assumed the lead five times during the final six minutes before Gillette’s buzzer-beater ended what very well may be still a one possession game if the two clubs were still going at it.
Redwoods: Donald Willis 23pts, Thomas Nelson 23pts, Drew Gillette 22pts, Zac Claus 10pts, Bradley Willis 7pts, AJ Stubbs 4pts, Isaac Puzz 2pts.
Southwestern: Jael Vaughn 29pts, Alen Alagic 11pts, Ryan Bell 10pts, Javon Moore 9pts, Mack Tarver Jr. 8pts, De’Shawn Keperling 7pts, Terryn Mosley 7pts, Ike Richards 4pts, Kinnon Finder 4pts
Redwoods will face Canada College (1-5) Thursday in Santa Rosa at the Kris Kringle Tournament. Southwestern (1-5) will face Centralia College (no record available).