Wendy Alexander/The Madera Tribune
Madera’s Makani Whiteside drives to the hoop during Monday’s win over Hoover. He scored 29 points in the overtime victory.
The Liberty Hawks boys basketball team forced overtime and outlasted the Hoover-Fresno Patriots for an important non-league 62-61 non-league victory.
The Patriots had the final possession, but missed a contested 15-foot jumper and the Hawks came away with a win over a Div. III team.
“This game is right next to the Madera South game,” head coach Johnny Gonzales said. “They come from the North Yosemite League, which is a very tough league. They played some very strong teams. They played hard and are well coached. We knew what we were getting ourselves into.”
“It’s a great win,” game-leading scorer Makani Whitside said. “We came out know this would be a big win so we stepped up to the challenge. We prevailed through all the hardships.”
Whiteside led the Hawks with 29 points to go with 11 rebounds, five offensive, and four blocked shots.
“I started to get my drives to fall,” Whiteside said. “If it’s working, then keep doing it. They didn’t switch their game so I didn’t switch mine, either. When I know my shot isn’t falling, all that’s going through my head is what else I can do to help my team. If it’s not scoring, it’s helping on defense, getting rebounds, get other guys looks. Scoring is my first look, but if it’s not falling, it’s doing what it takes to win.”
“Makani attracts a lot of attention and it’s awesome when he finishes,” Gonzales said.
Although no other Hawk recorded double-digits in points, seven different players scored. Gary Afonin scored eight, including the eventual game-winning bucket.
“Our last three games have come down to driving to the hoop,” Gonzales said. “Our shots haven’t been falling so we had to attack the paint and try to win it at the line if we have to.”
Hoover jumped out to a 13-6 lead in the first quarter before Logan Stephens hit a 3-pointer and Afonin drove in for a layup to cut the lead to two.
The Patriots answered with a 3-pointer and a layup, but Whiteside made two buckets to end the quarter trailing, 18-15.
After Hoover opened the second with a bucket, Adam Enos hit a 3-pointer. After a Hoover 3-pointer, Enos hit another from the baseline. Hoover added a free throw, but Whiteside converted a 3-point play. Whiteside found his brother, Lani, down low for a layup to tie the score at 26.
Hoover closed the first half outscoring the Hawks 9-2 on the backs of three 3-pointers for a 35-28 lead.
Whiteside found Quaid Copher for a 12-foot jumper to cut the lead down to five to open the second half. Hoover added a layup and field goal before Whiteside found Afonin for a layup.
Hoover extended its lead to 42-34 with two minutes left in the quarter. Then, Whiteside took over. He made a driving layup and turned a rebound into another driving layup. Afonin got his hands on a Hoover pass and Enos came up with the steal. Enos found Afonin for a layup. Then, Whiteside closed out the third quarter with a 16-foot pull-up jumper to tie the score at 42.
Hoover opened the fourth quarter with a 3-pointer, but Quentin Stewart made two free throws. Whiteside drove in for another layup for a 46-45 lead.
After a Hoover layup, Whiteside drove in for another bucket. After a Colton Cardoza rebound, Afonin found Stewart for a layup and a 50-47 lead.
Hoover quickly answered with a 3-pointer and got two free throws a minute later. The Patriots added a layup for a 7-0 run.
Stephens stopped the run with a 3-pointer, but Hoover made a layup for a three-point lead.
Whiteside put back his own miss to cut the lead to one. After a steal by Afonin, Whiteside drove to the rim and was fouled. However, he hit the deck and hurt his hip. He had to come out of the game and Enos stepped in for his free throws. Enos knocked down one of two to tie the score at 56 with 1:07 left in regulation.
Hoover threw out of bounds 20 seconds later, but Whiteside was blocked on a game-winning shot attempt.
Hoover had 31.2 seconds to work for a game-winning shot. After 17 seconds, the Patriots couldn’t get a shot and called another time out. After the time out, the Hawks’ defense stepped up and the Patriots couldn’t get a shot off as time expired.
Both teams couldn’t score for the first two minutes of overtime before Hoover made a layup. Off an offensive rebound, Whiteside found Nathanael Samarin for a layup to tie the score.
Hoover countered with a 3-pointer for a 61-58 lead.
Whiteside quickly answered with a driving layup. Then, Samarin got a steal and found Afonin for the potential game-winning layup with 32.3 seconds left.
Hoover couldn’t find anything for the first 20 seconds and called a time out with 10.5 seconds left.
After the time out, the Hawks’ defense was tough and forced a contested, off-balance 15-foot jumper that went off the rim and into the hands of Whiteside to end the game.
“That last 30 seconds of overtime seemed like an eternity,” Gonzales said. “They played really good defense. That’s something we’ve been trying to teach — switching on screens and stopping their best player. They didn’t get a lot of 3-pointers and the other was in foul trouble.”