Theres controversy at the end, but Johnsons last second free throws lift La Salle to a 40-39 victory

The fourth-ranked La Salle Falcons turned up the heat in the Brick Oven at crunch time and rallied to a 40-39 victory in a hotly contested boys basketball game with cross-town rival Gladstone on Feb. 5.

After a seesaw third quarter, Gladstone went up late in the period and maintained the lead until inside the final second of play, when La Salle senior guard Ian Johnson made two pressure-packed free throws to salvage the narrow victory.

The Gladiators had 15 turnovers in the game, five of them in the final 2:20 of play.

Gladstone senior guard Michael Stoutt scored Gladstone’s final points of the game with 1:38 remaining when he made two free throws to make it 39-33 Gladstone.

Johnson stuck a 3-pointer from the top of the key with just under a minute remaining to trim Gladstone’s lead to 39-36.

Sean Hays rebounded a missed Gladiator free throw with 40 seconds remaining.

With 16 seconds left, Hays rebounded a missed 3 by a teammate at La Salle’s end of the floor. Hays was fouled and his two free throws made it a one-point game, at 39-38.

After turnovers by each team, Gladstone inbounded the ball and the Falcons fouled Gladstone senior Jacob Kelly.

Kelly, feeling pressure from the boisterous crowd, missed both charity tosses.

Hays rebounded the second miss, gaining possession for La Salle.

McGraw attempted a trey from the corner and had the shot blocked out of bounds by Kelly.

Johnson put up a 5-footer and had his shot blocked out of bounds by Gladstone junior forward Ryun Gibson with just 1.1 ticks left on the clock.

The officials ruled that the blocked shot went off a La Salle player and they awarded the ball to Gladstone.

The Gladiators’ inbound pass with 1.1 seconds remaining was tipped by a La Salle player as it left the inbounder’s hands.

A melee ensued as players from both teams scrapped for the loose ball at halfcourt. A foul was called on Gladstone’s Handsome Smith, sending Johnson to the free throw line, where he swished the game-winners.

“That has to go down as the toughest loss I’ve ever experienced as a coach,” said Gladstone coach Ted Yates. “We won that game, except for a perfect storm. I was calling for a timeout [with 1.1 seconds left] and both officials were looking the other way and they wouldn’t give it to me. They started the clock when it was touched in the melee at half-court, instead of when it was first touched on the inbounds. Time should have been out when they called the foul. And there shouldn’t have been a foul called anyway. Both players were going for the ball.”

Had he been given the timeout, Yates says he would have instructed his player inbounding the ball to throw the ball towards the Gladiators’ key at the other end of the floor, “and don’t worry about catching it. If they get the ball and want to attempt a shot from there, let them have it.”

Hays (12 points) and Jacob McGraw (10 points) paced La Salle in scoring.

Except for Hays, who was 5-of-7 from the field, the Falcons had an off-night of shooting, making only 17-of-44 shots from the floor, for a lukewarm .386 shooting percentage.

Gladstone was 17-of-36 (.472) from the floor, but McGraw (8 rebounds), Hays (6 rebounds) and Keeston Smith (6 rebounds) led La Salle to a 31-18 advantage on the backboards. And Hays’ rebounds were pivotal, many of them coming inside the final minute of play.

Stoutt tallied a game-high 19 points to lead the Gladiators. But he was the only Gladstone player scoring in double figures.

“I really respect Gladstone,” said La Salle coach Jared Curtiss. “I think they are a team capable of getting to [the state tournament at] Gill Coliseum....

“The coaches really had them prepared for us. They seemed to have an answer for everything we did. It was a shame that there had to be a loser in that game.”

La Salle and Gladstone both won on Friday, the Falcons handling North Marion 76-49, while the Gladiators won ugly, 46-36 in double overtime in a home game with Estacada.

McGraw was huge for the Falcons at North Marion, scoring 23 points and hauling down a career-high 15 rebounds. McGraw was 6-of-10 from the field; he hit two 3-pointers and he was 9-of-11 at the free throw line.

“McGraw’s rebounding is something we talked about,” Curtiss said. “He’s not just a scorer like some guys, he has a skill set and athleticism that separates him from most guards in the state. He went out and grabbed 15 rebounds. When he does that, we are a really good team.”

La Salle (19-2, 6-1) entered play this week ranked fourth in the state, with league games remaining with Madras (13-8, 4-3), Estacada (4-13, 0-7) and Molalla (14-6, 6-1). The Falcons host Estacada this Friday, before finishing up the regular season next Tuesday at Molalla.

“We won ugly,” Yates said of his Gladiators’ double overtime win over the upstart Rangers. “The emotional loss at La Salle took its toll. We were fighting mental things. La Salle had to be our best game of the year and everything we did good at La Salle, we did bad against Estacada. We didn’t play with any energy or enthusiasm until the two overtimes. But I’ve got to hand it to the kids. They sucked it up and won against a team that’s on the rise.”

Defense was pivotal in the double overtime win. The Gladiators forced 21 turnovers, while committing just 10 turnovers of their own.

Stoutt and Smith headed up the defensive effort, with seven steals between them.

Ryun Gibson and Trevor Browning headed up the Gladiators’ offense, scoring 14 and 11 points respectively.

Yates praised Trevor Browning: “Trevor was the only guy who, in my mind, played a solid game from start to finish. We don’t win that game without Trevor.”

Browning was a perfect 4-for-4 from the free throw line in the two overtimes, scoring Gladstone’s only points in the first extra period.

Smith was 4-for-4 from the charity stripe in the second overtime, when the Gladiators outscored the Rangers 13-3. Stoutt hit a pivotal 3-pointer, and Gibson made three free throws.

Gladstone (11-7, 4-3) entered play this week ranked 13th in the state and trailing La Salle (6-1) and 11th-ranked Molalla (6-1) in the TVC standings with three league games remaining.

Gladstone was to play Molalla on Tuesday. The Gladiators play 12th-ranked Madras on the road this Friday and they finish up the regular season next Tuesday, hosting North Marion (6-15, 1-6).

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