After narrowly defeating Mills 53-51 on Jan. 27, the Dons made it back-to-back Fridays with a 49-44 win over Mills, this time led by junior Chris Swartz, who hit a go-ahead three-pointer with 5.4 seconds left.
The first quarter began with constant back-and-forth possession between the Dons and the Vikings. After the tip off, it took Mills over four minutes to break a 0-0 deadlock. The Vikings continued off this momentum, putting up 10 points, while the Dons struggled to make their shots. Junior guard Davion Cox scored Aragon’s only four points of the quarter.
Senior guard Carlos Pagaduan wasn’t too discouraged with the team’s slow start: “[I] just think about the next shot [I’m] going to take,” he said. “[We] don’t worry about the first shot, [we] stay confident and just keep shooting.”
The Dons came out firing in the second quarter, scoring 19 points. However, the red and black quickly got themselves into foul trouble, giving up six points on free throws alone in the quarter and bringing the halftime score to 23-22.
In the third quarter, the game resorted to its back-and-forth origins, with both teams remaining within five points of each other, with Mills finishing with a slim 37-33 lead.
The fourth quarter began with junior Viking Nick Brouqua injuring his ankle.
“I went up for a rebound with one of Aragon’s players and when we both came down I landed on his shoe and twisted [my ankle]. I feel like it’s a sprain,” recalls Brouqua.
Even with Brouqua on the bench, the Vikings kept their lead until the final seconds of the game. With less than a minute left, the teams were neck-and-neck. Both were fighting for the win, and five timeouts were called in the final minute of the game — three by the Vikings and two by the Dons. When the Dons called their final timeout, there were 6.8 seconds remaining, and Mills still had the lead.
Junior forward Tommy Cheang recalls his thoughts during the timeout: “I was scared out of my mind. I thought we had a chance of losing to a team that I think we are better than.”
Immediately following the timeout, with just 5.4 seconds remaining, junior guard Chris Swartz made a three pointer, saving the game for the Dons.
“Earlier in the season at the first quad [versus San Mateo], I had the same exact shot with the same exact amount of time and I missed the shot,” says Swartz. “I got another chance and I wanted to make it so bad.”
Even after Swartz’s shot, the game was not over. Junior guard Donovan Robinson was fouled with 2.2 seconds left in the game. Robinson made both of his free throws, ending the fourth quarter with a victory for the Dons, 49-44.
This recent win to the Vikings has brought the Dons record to 5-4. Last season the Dons finished earning a 7-5 in the Peninsula Athletic League (PAL), coached by Sam Manu. However, this season, former junior varsity coach Hosea Patton has taken on the role of coaching the varsity team.
“The team’s main adjustment is probably getting back acclimated to my style of coaching. They’ve all played for me on the junior varsity team … I believe this gives them familiarity with my style of coaching and expectations.” says Patton.
Senior guard Joseph Park believes this connection will help the team play cohesively.
“Coach Hosea and the rest of our team have grown closer on and off the court, which will hopefully help us in playing together,” says Park.
A challenge the Dons have faced throughout season is the height of Aragon players compared to their opponents; the average player on this year’s Aragon team is 6’1”. Pagaduan notes how the size of the team will affect playing: “With our team being smaller than last year, we [need] to focus on defense, getting the ball out and running.”
Patton echoes the Dons’ defensive mindset, which has a focus on rebounding: “We’re not the biggest team so rebounding is one of our greatest challenges. There are a couple players that want to rebound, but as a team we lack the want to go get the ball.”
Although the Dons believe their defense needs improvement, they excel in offensive play, particularly outside shooting.
On Jan. 17, the Dons defeated the Capuchino Mustangs (3-6), achieving their highest score in a game this season, 87 points. The last time the Dons scored this many points was in 2014 at the Central Coast Section (CCS) semifinals against Aptos High School, where the Dons won 94-93 in overtime to advance to the championships. The Dons went on to defeat Valley Christian High School in the finals, 61-55, and won the CCS championship.
“It was a beautiful thing to witness,” says Patton, regarding the game against Capuchino. “[The team] played together, moved the ball and made individual sacrifices on defense when it counted most.”
After their win against Mills, the Dons plan to continue working hard to improve their record by stepping up their play in their coming game against rival Hillsdale on Feb. 10.
The Dons also played San Mateo on Feb. 8, but this game was after the Outlook’s print deadline.