Mitchell Saxen contributed 23 points, 10 rebounds and three blocked shots as Ingraham survived a buzzer-beating three-pointer attempt to claim a hard-fought 58-57 victory.
The Ingraham boys basketball team is still learning how to close out a victory.
After blowing a pair of double-digit leads in a pair games at the Rancho Mirage, Calif., tournament over holiday break, ninth-ranked Ingraham got another gut check.
This time, the Rams passed the test — albeit barely.
Mitchell Saxen, a 6-foot-10 junior, contributed 23 points, 10 rebounds and three blocked shots as Ingraham survived a buzzer-beating three-pointer attempt to claim a hard-fought 58-57 victory over visiting Roosevelt in Friday night’s Metro League contest.
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“We just have to pick it up defensively, because for a while we were slacking on defense,” said Ingraham junior guard Coz Collins, who added nine of his 13 points in the second half. “We have to pick it up defensively at the end of games. We need to learn how to finish games. When we’ve got a lead, we just kind of slack off sometimes. But we got the win.”
Ingraham (7-4, 5-1 Metro) dodged a defeat when Roughriders’ guard Shay Williams rimmed the potential game-winning three-pointer long with one second left. Time ran out as the ball caromed away and with it so did Roosevelt’s chances after rallying from 13 points down in the third quarter and eight behind in the final 3 minutes, 49 seconds.
“That’s something we’ve been working on since we were in the Palm Springs area over Christmas break,” Ingraham coach Malcolm Mack said, referencing blown leads in losses to Beverly Hills 69-63 on Dec. 26 and Fairmont Prep 58-53 on Dec. 28. “We lost two games where we were up 12 points or more on and let them slip away. We should’ve walked away in those four (tournament) games undefeated.
“We need to learn how to execute during those times and calm down during those times like that.”
The Rams were ready for top-flight junior point guard Maui Sze to take the final shot when the Roughriders (6-6, 4-3) rebounded E’Lijah Rabideau’s missed free throw on a 1-and-1 situation with 24.4 seconds remaining.
“Maui, he’s a good player, but (teammate) David Atwood locked it up, and it was good defense at the end,” said Collins. “They got a good shot, but they missed, so we can’t be mad. We just have to get better in practice. We’re learning how to win.”
Sze finished with 18 points for Roosevelt and senior teammate Kyle Luttinen added 17. The elusive, quick point guard tallied 11 points in the second half with eight coming in the final quarter to keep the Riders close.
Sze’s deep three-pointer from straightaway pulled his club within 58-57 with 1:01 left in the game. That came after he scored on a driving runner off glass with 1:45 showing to cut the Ingraham lead to 58-54.
“I told the guys coming into the game it was going to be a 32-minute fight,” Sze said. “So after we cut to five from 10 points, we were confident. On that last possession, I thought I had a shot but they made a quick double (team). I made the pass to Shay and we’ll take that shot every time.”