Down by 11 points, the Centennial boys basketball team had little margin of error to work with during the final six minutes and 10 seconds of its Garces Holiday Hoops Challenge quarterfinal game against Tulare-Mission Oak.
Thankfully, for the Golden Hawks, they were near-perfect down the stretch and pulled out a 79-75 victory over the Hawks on Thursday night at Garces High.
Brandon Robinson had 29 points, including a clutch 3-pointer with 40 seconds left, to lift Centennial to the dramatic win, its second of the day.
The Golden Hawks were 11-of-11 on two-point field goal attempts and didn't commit a turnover during the fourth quarter against Mission Oak.
"Isn't that beautiful?" Centennial coach Hernan Santiago said. "...We were settling for a lot of 3s earlier and then Brandon put us on his back and said we're going to attack the basket like we've been asked and then we got fortunate layups."
The Hawks, playing without their top players Blake Shannon (32 points and 8 assists per-game averages) and Austin Molezzo (16 ppg., 9 rpg.) due to injuries, outscored Centennial by 10 points in the third quarter and led 58-51 entering the fourth.
But after Bobby Alvarado's fourth 3-pointer gave the Hawks a 66-55 lead with 6:22 left, things started to go the Golden Hawks' way.
Preston Green sank a runner in the lane with 6:10 remaining to kick off a 14-3 Centennial run that tied the game.
Mission Oak quickly pulled ahead again 73-70, only to fall short when after Malcolm Johnson made it a 1-point game with a strong move to the basket, Centennial senior guard Derek Check penetrated into the key before finding Robinson wide open on the wing just behind the 3-point line.
The 5-foot-11 sophomore, who had 12 fourth-quarter points, swished the shot, giving Centennial the lead for good with 40 seconds to go.
"It was a big shot," Robinson said. "I was so hyped. For Derek to pass me the ball and have confidence in me, it's a great feeling. An All-Area player giving me the chance to show my talents, it's just big."
The Golden Hawks will face Bakersfield tonight in the semifinals. The Drillers recovered from a slow start to win 72-51 Thursday over Lemoore.
Centennial reached the quarterfinals by beating Mira Monte 88-78 on Thursday morning. Five players scored in double figures for Centennial, off-setting a 36-point effort by the Lions' Braxton Huggins.
Johnson, Centennial's top big-man finished with 17 points and dominated the boards against Mission Oak.
Check, like Johnson and Robinson a transfer from Independence, had 11 points and several assists.
"I'm one of the only seniors on the team so I have to step it up and lead a lot of times," Check said. "My team has done a great job of stepping it up with me and just playing hard."
Alvarado, who scored 27 points in the Hawks' first-round victory over West on Monday, tallied a game-high 33 points against Centennial.
Will Shannon was Misson Oak's second-leading scorer with 18 points.
"We played the best basketball we possibly could tonight," Mission Oak coach Myron Epps said. "Toward the end of the game we didn't execute. Didn't guard like we should have. Those things will hurt. And they did a good job of picking up the pressure. And when you're missing a couple of guards, that can be the key changing the basketball game around."
Centennial struggled with its shooting from the floor and at the free throw line through the first three quarters.
Even with their red-hot fourth quarter, the Golden Hawks were out-shot 46.7-percent to 50-percent from the field by Mission Oak.
Centennial won the turnover battle, 18-10, and the Golden Hawks took 25 more field goal attempts (75-50).