Judson Steele took his time walking off the court, offering hugs to some and gently guiding others with his arms back to the locker room.
For 30 minutes, his Mission boys’ basketball team had played host and top-seeded El Camino of Sacramento to a standstill in Tuesday’s NorCal Division III quarterfinal.
Then, suddenly, it was over.
With the score tied 62-62 with 2 minutes, 30 seconds remaining, the Eagles went on a 5-0 run to take control. And when Kyle Baxter made two free throws with 3.8 seconds left to provide the final margin in a 69-65 win, the band exploded and a season that saw the Bears win their first San Francisco Section championship since 1993 had ended.
“We had nothing to lose and we fought a greatteam to the end,” Steele said. “They could barely handle us.”
Junior Demaree Hampton had 30 points to lead Mission (26-5), including a short jumper that banked in to forge the 62-62 tie. The Bears then had a chance to take the lead, but after a missed shot, Mission was whistled for an offensive foul and, in the aftermath of the call, a technical. Baxter (15 points, 14 rebounds) made three of four resulting free throws and Juwann Springfield had a steal and a layup to give El Camino
(26-5) a 67-62 lead. Hampton hit three free throws with 5 seconds left to cut it back to two, but Baxter’s free throws iced it.
Harry Howard added 18 points in his final game for Mission, which trailed by as many as 12 points early in the third quarter, but went on a 19-2 run and to take a 59-54 lead on Anthony Layton’s 3-point play with 5:15 left in the game. El Camino features three players 6-foot-7 or taller and had a 42-31 rebounding advantage, but was held to 7-of-27 shooting in the second half after going 18-for-31 from the floor over the first two quarters.
“I’m so proud of my guys — we played last night and they were ready to go all night again,” Steele said. “We weren’t intimidated and we gave it our best shot.”