"He looked as cool as a cucumber," Skyline coach Clint Cornish said, referring to Isaac Farnsworth's two free throws with four seconds remaining in Wednesday night's 4A District 6 tournament game.
In a frenzied second half in which top-seed Hillcrest appeared ready to punch its ticket to the state tournament, Skyline, the No. 4 district seed that finished with a 2-6 conference record, hung around and found itself with a chance at the end.
Farnsworth stepped to the line and calmly sank both shots, giving the Grizzlies a 46-45 win and earning Skyline a shot at a state title berth when the two teams face off Thursday at Skyline in the if-necessary game.
Skyline is the only 4A team to beat Hillcrest this season, and now the Grizzlies have done it twice. Cornish said there was no magic formula. The first game against Hillcrest was without its inside force Isaac Davis. Davis did play on Wednesday and led Hillcrest with 12 points, but the team's overall offensive production and shooting, or lack thereof, has become a concern.
"We lost all confidence in ourselves," Hillcrest coach Dave Austin said. "Our offense is stagnant and selfish."
The Knights (17-7) hit just 2 of 12 3-pointers and hurt themselves at the free-throw line, finishing 9 of 17.
The missed free throws proved crucial in the closing minutes as Hillcrest tried to protect a slim lead. The Knights, who had built a 10-point lead midway through the third quarter, never could put away the Grizzlies despite Skyline scoring just 13 points over the second and third quarter.
But the chaos in the final minute proved beneficial.
Skyline's Cade Marlow stole an inbounds pass to give the Grizzlies possession with 18 seconds left. Raleigh Shippen was fouled with eight seconds left and had a chance to tie the game, but missed the second free throw, leaving Skyline down 45-44.
Hillcrest's Tre Kofe was fouled while rebounding the missed free throw, but missed his chance to seal the game as well. In the ensuing scramble for the ball, Farnsworth was fouled, setting up the late drama.
"I continue to say they're the No. 1 4A team in the state," Cornish said of Hillcrest, which has been ranked in the state media poll. "They have the best talent, they have the best basketball players. For us to come in here and be in the game with them and stay with them is a testament to the kids. It shows how much better we've gotten since Day 1."
Austin said his players need a short memory to get ready for the deciding game.
"We have to work together," he said.
The third and deciding tournament matchup between the two teams tips at 7 p.m.
SKYLINE 46, HILLCREST 45
Skyline 16 6 7 17 — 46
Hillcrest 10 16 8 11 — 45
SKYLINE — Christean Thomas 4, Raleigh Shippen 18, Cade Marlow 10, Kenyon Sadiq 2, Issac Farnsworth 6, Landon Merzlock 6.
HILLCREST — Isaac Davis 12, Cooper Kesler 11, Tre Kofe 11, Garrett Phippen 7, Sam Kunz 2, Given Chatelain 2.