SAN LEANDRO – Bishop O’Dowd High boys basketball player William Chavarin used to practice sinking game-winning free throws in big games.
“As a kid, I used to do it all the time with my dad,” the senior said. “Every day.”
On Tuesday, Chavarin’s dreams became reality. He converted four straight free throws in the last 6.9 seconds, including the eventual game-winning point, as Bishop O’Dowd edged host San Leandro 57-54 in the first round of the California Interscholastic Federation Division I Northern California regional.
The game lived up to the stellar reputation of the two teams’ series this year, as the three games have been decided by a total of seven points. Bishop O’Dowd won 52-50 on Jan. 9 and San Leandro was victorious by a 54-52 score on Jan. 25 before Tuesday night, which had 10 lead changes, including five in the fourth quarter.
O’Dowd moves on to play at home Thursday against San Joaquin Memorial, though it’s possible the game could move to a larger venue in the Oakland area.
Late in the fourth quarter, it appeared that San Leandro’s Lawrence Long would be the hero of the game Tuesday. The senior scored 10 of his 12 points in the fourth quarter, including two free throws with 25.6 seconds left to give the fifth-seeded Pirates a 54-53 lead.
But Chavarin then took the game into his hands. He drove to the hoop, was fouled with 6.9 seconds left and stood at the free-throw line with not only his childhood dreams staring him in the face.
“I had a tough outing on the last game. I went 3 for 10 at the line, so I just had to knock that down. I had to come up clutch for my team,” said Chavarin, who sank both free throws for a 55-54 O’Dowd lead.
Then he stole a San Leandro pass on its next possession and was fouled with .4 seconds remaining. His two free throws gave the 12th-seeded Dragons the final three-point margin.
“We just had to come together as a team, because that’s what’s we are. We don’t have one guy that’s the most amazing. Everybody has their game,” said Chavarin, who scored a game-high 16 points. O’Dowd converted 16 of their 19 free-throw attempts in the game.
“It was a very physical game,” Bishop O’Dowd coach Lou Richie said. “We wanted to match their toughness. We felt we did that, and we made free throws, and it came down to one possession.
“We rebounded the ball in the second half and we didn’t turn it over at a high level, and that’s what we’ve been trying to do all year.”
San Leandro (24-6) was 4 for 7 from the free-throw line in the fourth quarter.
“We missed some free throws down the stretch we shouldn’t have missed, and If we didn’t miss them, we would have iced the game,” San Leandro coach Darrnaryl Stamps said.”I’m still proud of the guys because they fought, and just came out a little short.”
San Leandro took a 14-7 lead with 2:24 left in the first quarter on a basket by Ciri Sawyers, who had six of his 10 points in the first quarter. But Bishop O’Dowd (22-8) went on a 17-9 run to take a 24-23 lead on a basket by Marsalis Roberson with 2:20 left in the first half. Roberson had nine of his 12 points in the second quarter. Neither team had more than a five-point lead the rest of the game – in the fourth quarter, neither team had more than a three-point lead.
Besides Chavarin and Roberson, O’Dowd’s Monty Bowser also scored in double figures with 10 points. TJ Kilgore had 10 points for San Leandro. Teammate Junior Maile had nine points and a game-high eight rebounds. San Leandro’s Keshad Johnson was limited to four points, but he had a game-four assists and four steals.BASKETBALL? WE’VE GOT YOU COVERED
It’s high school basketball season, and our team is ready to provide can’t-miss stories through the state championships in March. So you don’t miss the action, we’ve got a deal that will keep you apprised of every dramatic twist and turn along the way. For just 12 cents a day for a year, you can have access to all the digital content at mercurynews.com and eastbaytimes.com. You just need to sign up at one of these two links: Mercury News or East Bay Times.