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Action-packed game vs. Nordhoff goes down to the wire

Malibu’s Ty Harris (30) takes the ball downcourt Wednesday, Feb. 1, as the Sharks face Nordhoff in Malibu. Photos by Dave Teel/22nd Century Media
David Hudson (15) makes a pass against two Rangers defenders.
Team captain Cade McMillin drives inside for a basket Feb. 1, when he scored 18 points against the Rangers.
Coach Richard Harris talks to the team during their final timeout when the Sharks led Nordhoff 52-50 with six seconds left.
Ryan Flynn, Freelance Reporter
5:46 pm PST February 6, 2017

With six seconds remaining, visiting Nordhoff took a timeout.

The Malibu Sharks boys basketball team had led seemingly all game, and were up by two in the waning moments on Wednesday, Feb. 1, in Malibu. One more good defensive possession, and the Sharks would close out a much-needed win. Instead, Nordhoff inbounded the ball, and put up a 3-pointer as the buzzer sounded.

Swish.

The walk-off bucket turned ecstasy into heartbreak, just that quick, shocking the Sharks Wednesday night with a 53-52 loss.

“We’re alright,” coach Richard Harris said after the game. “Someone made a last second three on us. We had the lead, we missed a lot of key free throws. That hurt us this game. We’ve got to hit our free throws at home. That was basically our doom today.”

Early on, it was the Jake Hughes show. The junior guard has probably been Malibu’s best long range shooter all season, and is prone to going on hot streaks. Wednesday night was no different. In the first quarter, Hughes hit three straight 3-pointers. He knocked in another two more before halftime, helping the Sharks stretch the lead to 10 before the break.

“Jake’s a beast, man. Jake is one of the best players in this league,” Harris said. “He definitely is a difference maker for us. Sometimes he wins games for us because of how well he plays. He’s really an effective piece for our team.”

In the second half, however, Nordhoff began to key in on Hughes. The open looks were no longer there, and oftentimes a second player would hover close by when the Sharks ran action to get him open. Despite very little second half production from their sharpshooter, the Sharks still held onto their lead midway through the third quarter, up 50-40, in large part thanks to relentless drives to the rim by senior guard Cade McMillin.

Mistakes and missed free throws cost the Sharks in the fourth. The Malibu shooting slump aligned with a Nordhoff hot streak. The Rangers got to the line a ton, and converted much more often than Malibu, who failed several times to make the front end of their 1-and-1 free throws.

“We wanted to get to the free throw line, we wanted foul shots and just couldn’t hit them. So, it cost us,” Harris said.

With two minutes left, up 52-48, one Malibu player missed a free throw. Nordhoff scored on the other end, making it a 52-50 game. Hughes, usually a reliable free throw shooter, was intentionally fouled, and also missed his free throw, setting the stage for the buzzer beater.

“On the last defensive possession I wanted to pressure the inbounds so its not an easy inbounds pass,” Harris said. “I don’t know if it was screen set, but we had a man in the guy’s face and he put his hand up. The dude just hit a tough shot. Sometimes in basketball you lose those games.”