Another gameday, another frantic finish in Southwest Yosemite League boys basketball. This one was so frantic, in fact, that it didn't involve any points.
Stockdale hung on for a 41-38 road victory over Liberty on Tuesday when neither team scored in the final 3 minutes, 30 seconds.
"It defnitely wasn't pretty, but it's a big win," Mustangs coach Oliver Brown said.
Liberty senior Jake Martin, who led all scorers with 15 points, hit a deep 3-pointer to cut Stockdale's lead to 39-38 with 4:40 to play. A minute later, Chris Ross answered for the Mustangs (14-3, 2-1 SWYL) with a slick finish on a drive to the basket.
After that, there were plenty of turnovers, missed free throws and tough rebounds. Just no points.
"They did a good job of changing the looks they gave us defensively," said Liberty coach A.J. Shearon (Brown said the same about the Patriots). "We just never could get in rhythm, and you can't just turn a switch at the end."
Liberty did have a few looks from long range to tie the game -- including one from Martin with about a minute left that rimmed halfway down and came out -- but on the Patriots' final possession, the ball was deflected and Kyle Ferreira couldn't get a shot off before the buzzer.
"We record tips in our statistics," Stockdale senior Alex Williams said. "It's really big for us to do that and be disruptive."
Liberty (13-6, 2-1) was coming off a lopsided win against Clovis North on Saturday that put the Patriots in position for a high seed in the Central Section Division I playoffs. But in this one, they led only once, at 3-2.
Stockdale stretched the lead to as many as seven in the first half but settled for a 24-20 lead at halftime.
"The story of the game for me was the first half with our energy level," Shearon said. "It's disappointing, because you'd like to think you can get back up for a big league game."
Liberty twice tied the game, at 28 late in the third quarter and then again at 32 early in the fourth. But Robbie Purdy answered with a 3-pointer, and Stockdale, which lost 57-53 to Independence last week when the Falcons went on a late 10-0 run, scratched and clawed to victory from there.
"Early in the season, we had this swagger about us," Williams said. "We kind of got away from that. We just need to play defense, and that offense will come."
Stockdale got just enough offense, thanks to Williams and Purdy, who each hit two 3-pointers. Ross also scored six of his eight points in the fourth quarter.
"The kids prepared the right way," Brown said. "There are good players in this league who understand how to play, and teams get tight. We know each other so well."
Ferreira had 11 points to join Martin in double figures, but the rest of the Patriots combined for only 12.
"The last three or four games, we've done a nice job defensively," Shearon said. "We just couldn't capitalize on it. We were above average on defense but much below average on offense. And Stockdale deserves credit for that.
Now Liberty must turn around and face league-leading Independence (21-1, 3-0) at home on Thursday. Stockdale, meanwhile, has a game against Frontier (9-10, 1-2) and a chance to build some momentum.
"We've got to get better, and we've got to keep looking forward," Brown said.