By Jesse Wolfersberger: Freedom Newspapers
ALBUQUERQUE — It pays to be at the right place at the right time, especially on the last play of a one-point state tournament game.
Down by one with only seconds left in the game, Logan junior Austin Whetten was well short on his desperation mid-range jumper, but junior Daniel Acosta grabbed the airball and layed it in as time expired to give the Longhorns a 57-56 win against Magdalena in the semifinals of the Class 1A state tournament on Thursday at Del Norte High School.
“I waited for a rebound,” Acosta said. “There wasn’t a rebound, it was an airball, but I grabbed that bad boy and put it up.”
With the win, the Longhorns advance to the finals against top-seeded Des Moines (29-2) at 6:30 p.m. today at The Pit in Albuquerque.
Drew Perez led the third-seeded Longhorns (26-4) with 14 points, Whetten and Jake Abercrombie had 12, and Acosta finished with 10.
Senior Trowen Vinyard paced second-seeded Magdalena (26-5) with 20 points.
With 10 seconds left, the Longhorns intentionally fouled Steers senior guard Ronnie Torres to try and get the ball back.
“We wanted to foul, that was the plan,” Logan coach Billy Burns said. “We wanted to save as much time as we could. We knew that if he made both of them it’d be a three-point ballgame and we’d have a chance to come down and hit a three to tie. He didn’t get them to go, and that made a big difference.”
Torres missed both and the Longhorns had to go the length of the floor and try to get a good shot.
“There was no play,” Acosta laughed. “It was all in our hands. We were out of timeouts, so we just went for it.”
Since he did not have a timeout to work with, Burns said had to trust his players to get a basket.
“We were in the situation where we had to make a play,” Burns said. “And the ball just rolled our way. The ball’s got to bounce your way sometimes, and it did tonight.”
After the ball went through and the buzzer sounded, no one in the building looked more shocked than Magdalena coach Walt Sanchez, who remained crouched, his eyes fixed on the basket as the Longhorns celebrated.
“We got the shot we wanted out of transition,” Sanchez said. “It’s just one of those deals where (Acosta) was at the right place at the right time.”
Sanchez said the worst part of the loss was knowing it would be the last game for five Steers seniors.
“It’s hard for me because I know, year in and year out, I’ll have the chance to be in this situation,” Sanchez said. “But my seniors will never have this chance again. That means more to me than anything else. My heart goes out to my seniors.”
Logan played at Des Moines in the first game of the season, losing by 26 points.
Burns said his team has improved a lot since that season-opening slaughter.
“Des Moines is good, they’re real good,” Burns said. “It ought to be exciting.”
Perez said Saturday’s game will be a dream come true.
“It’s been a dream for me ever since I was a little kid,” Perez said. “My dad would bring me to the Pit to watch the state tournament; my older brother was on a state championship team. It’s just been my dream ever since I was a little boy shooting in the backyard.”