What do you do when you’re down one with 12 seconds to go, and the game is on the line?
Give it the guy who’s 1-6 from the field.
“We were trying to get it Chris [Camper] regardless,” head coach Jerome Jenkins said after the game.
The Santa Monica College men’s basketball team edged out a 72-71 victory over the Cerritos College Falcons last Friday night on a reverse layup by Camper with 1.5 seconds left in the game.
Before Camper’s late heroics, he wasn’t having the most superhuman of games. Nonetheless, he felt he “needed to make something happen.”
“I just felt like I wasn’t having a productive game. I was in the right spot at the right time and I just had to make a play,” Camper said.
Despite getting off to a strong 12-3 start, SMC eased up on their early defensive pressure and allowed Cerritos to get comfortable. After an early timeout, Cerritos went on an 8-2 run, getting them back in the game. The Corsairs trailed by seven at halftime, and fell behind by as many as 15 points in the second half.
A ferocious dunk late in the second half by Jon Benson of Cerritos gave them their biggest lead, 61-46. Following his monster slam, Benson was assessed a technical foul for a little too much showboating. The Corsairs would use that as fuel for their comeback.
“We teach our guys that no deficit is too big,” said Jenkins. “We started playing better basketball and our players made plays.”
Helping to spark the run was freshman guard Keilan Horton. He led the Corsairs in scoring with 23 points off the bench, scoring 15 in the second half alone.
“I had to turn the switch on, get my team going, play with some intensity and pick up the pace,” Horton said.
The Corsairs hit Cerritos with a 17-2 run, knotting the game up at 63 off a Horton jump shot. With 51 seconds left, he knocked down a pair of free throws to put SMC ahead 68-67, their first lead since early in the first half.
Then the unthinkable happened.
Before Cerritos inbounded the ball, Horton committed his fifth and final foul, sending Falcons point guard Manny Garcia to the free throw line. He would make both, giving Cerritos back the lead.
On the ensuing play, Corsair forward David Nwaba drove down the lane and scored, putting SMC back up by one. The Falcons would answer back with a jump shot from guard Kevin Conrad, who led his team in scoring with 11 points.
It was time to take action, or go home.
Without taking a timeout, the Corsairs ran up the floor, looking for a way to get the ball inside. With Horton fouled out, Camper was SMC’s first option. Jenkins stated that he wanted to go to Camper because he has good size and strength, enabling him to get good post position.
Camper muscled his way to the rim, converting a reverse layup to seal SMC’s victory.
After the game, he explained what propelled his team to come out on top.
“Everybody stepped up and played the way we’re supposed to play,” Camper said.
With one win under their belt, the Corsairs travel to Irvine Valley College for a three-day tournament starting Thursday, Nov. 15 against Imperial Valley College at 8 p.m.
This story was co-written with David Yapkowitz