WINDSOR — Three close losses in the past month steeled the Montgomery Vikings for the do-or-die scenario they faced Friday night.
Jan. 25: 57-50 overtime loss to Santa Rosa.
Feb. 8: 40-38 loss at the buzzer to Windsor.
Feb. 17: 57-54 loss to Cardinal Newman.
But in Friday’s quarterfinal of the Division 2 North Coast Section boys basketball playoffs, the Vikings used what they learned in those defeats.
Montgomery, the No. 8 seed facing the No. 1 Jaguars — who rolled through the North Bay League 14-0 this season — summoned all they had against Windsor, eliminating the Jaguars with a 53-51 overtime win.
The win sends Montgomery to Newark Memorial on Wednesday for an NCS semifinal. Windsor ends its run 25-4 and as undefeated league champs.
“That was the most exciting game I’ve ever been in,” said the speedy Montgomery junior point guard Alex Soria, who scored a team-high 16 points, including 4-of-4 free throws in overtime.
“I wasn’t feeling good early, but my adrenaline got going and my nervousness went away.”
During the Vikings’ final timeout with 8.6 seconds left in overtime and a tenuous 53-51 lead, first-year Montgomery coach Zac Tiedeman reassured his team.
“Against Santa Rosa, we kinda blew it and couldn’t regroup,” he said. “You can’t teach experience. Tonight, we went back to the huddle in overtime and we had a bit more calmness about us. Even when we were two or three points down, we stuck with it.”
The teams had faced off twice this year, with the Jaguars winning both times — a 49-30 blowout at Windsor in January and the buzzer-beater at Montgomery three weeks ago.
Still, Windsor coach Travis Taylor knew the Vikings couldn’t be overlooked.
“They came out running and gunning, shooting threes,” he said.
The Vikings bagged seven 3-pointers, including three by Bryce Burroughs off the bench.
Meanwhile, Windsor couldn’t hit from distance, shooting 3-for-23 from beyond the 3-point arc.
Windsor led by two after the first quarter, but Montgomery hit three 3-pointers in the second quarter to push ahead 26-22 at the half.
Montgomery held Windsor’s leading scorer, Gabe Knight, to six points in the first half, collapsing two or three defenders on him when he muscled in down low.
But Knight got hot in the second half, scoring eight in the third quarter and every one of the Jaguars’ 11 points in the fourth quarter. Knight, a senior, led all scorers with 27 points on the night.
Tiedeman praised Knight, who he called one of the best, if not the best, player in the league.
“A lot of times we double-teamed him. We made him earn it,” he said. “When you see he still scored 27, it makes it even more impressive.”
In a game with 14 lead changes, neither team ever felt confident.
Tied at 46 after regulation, both teams blew opportunities in the first 90 seconds of the 4-minute overtime.
Windsor broke through with a steal by Chaise Noles, who intercepted a pass meant for Soria, then passed to Knight, who passed quickly to Parker Canady, who laid it in and drew a foul from Cain Santos. Canady converted the free throw to put Windsor up 49-46 with 2:39 left.