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Canyon denies Foothill share of title
SANTA ANA – Canyon senior guard JoJo Ballestero has developed into a scorer despite often being one of the smallest players on the basketball court.
"On a good day I'm 5-10," Ballestero joked. "I always practice crazy shots, fadeaways. Somebody's always in my face."
Ballestero had a Foothill defender in his face, as well as a one-point deficit, when he drained a fadeaway jumper with seven seconds remaining to give Canyon a 66-65 Century League victory in Thursday's regular-season finale at Foothill High.
The shot capped an improbable comeback for the Comanches (18-9, 9-3), who tied the No. 4 Knights (21-5, 9-3) for second place in league while denying them a share of the title.
Canyon had to rewrite its final play after it was unable to inbound the ball, calling timeout with 18.7 seconds left. Ballestero took the ensuing inbound and initially appeared stuck as he picked up his dribble on the left wing just inside the 3-point line. He looked to pass before turning his body and leaning back to get the shot off
"Got the ball in our senior's hands and said Jo, 'Final game of your career, go and make a play," Canyon coach Nate Harrison said. "And he went and made a play."
Ballestero made many of them. He scored a game-high 29 points, including 11 in the fourth quarter. Foothill had the ball with a 65-62 lead and less than 20 seconds remaining when point guard Justin Davis was called for a technical for elbowing Canyon guard Anthony Ballestero in the jaw while being fouled by the Comanche. Davis missed his 1-and-1 attempt and JoJo Ballestero made two free throws.
Canyon outscored Foothill, 26-10, in the fourth quarter to win its second game this week against a top-10 opponent -- the Comanches beat league champion Villa Park on Tuesday.
"We don't play the scoreboard," Harrison said. "We just play hard. We could be up 15, down 15. We play hard all the time."
Canyon was actually down 16 late in the third quarter, following a 3-pointer by Foothill guard Josh Reed. Knights forward Conrad Tydon's layup moments later secured a 15-point lead going into the fourth quarter.
Tydon was the ninth Foothill player to score in what had been a dominating three quarters for the home team, which beat Canyon by 31 three weeks ago. The Knights featured six players in their rotation at least 6-2, also the height of Canyon’s tallest player, Chandler Dignam.
The Comanches’ rally started with a 3-pointer by Kalem Rokosz and continued with two 3-pointers by guard Devonte Parker, steals and blocks by Nick Anderson, and layups by Anthony Ballestero and Dignam.
Foothill's Connor Stevens, Jacob Dean and Davis each scored 12 points.
“We just have a tendency to do our own thing sometimes, instead of staying with the game plan to play inside out,” Foothill coach Rusty Van Cleave said. “It’s really about the defensive end of the floor. We got lost too many times on guys just cutting. That’s why we’re not a league champion.”
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