Sentinels advance to first CIF final since 2004 with a thrilling 97-93 victory

The Division IV-A semifinal between Inglewood and Bishop Montgomery at Morningside High School represented everything that makes playoff basketball worth watching.

It had two players – childhood friends Dashawn Gomez (Inglewood) and Justin Cobbs (Bishop Montgomery) – in a furious shootout where they combined for 82 points.

It had a furious comeback with Inglewood scoring eight points in less than 90 seconds to tie the game, the last three coming from Gomez with three seconds left in regulation.

It had controversy as Bishop Montgomery felt they were robbed of a crucial point in overtime that could have changed how they played the final frame.

But no matter how folks choose to see Inglewood’s 97-93 overtime victory on Friday, it was a game that fans and players will remember for a long time.

For Inglewood, it will go down as one of the most thrilling victories in its school’s history. For defending Southern Section champion Bishop Montgomery, especially senior guard Justin Cobbs who finished with a game-high 47 points (28 in the second half and overtime), it will be one of their most bitter.

Inglewood advanced to their first Southern Section final since 2004 behind Gomez’s all-around game (35 points, eight rebounds and eight assists) and the inside tandem of Desean Anderson (17 points, 15 rebounds) and Wesley White (21 points – 16 in the second half and overtime).

“Everyone expected Bishop to succeed because they’re the No. 1 seed but I had confidence in my team to pull it out,” Gomez said.

It’s ironic they advanced by winning on their rival’s home court but it’s been a place of comfort for the Sentinels, who haven’t lost a semifinal game there in the past 16 years according to head coach Pat Roy, including a 2004 victory over Mater Dei.

 “Every time we’ve had the chance to play at Morningside, we’ve been successful,” Roy said.

It was also the site of another comeback two weeks ago when the Sentinels trailed Morningside by 15 with five minutes left before escaping with a 64-59 victory in their final regular season game.

This comeback was a bit tougher.

Trailing 77-69, the Sentinels clawed their way back by attacking the basket. The run culminated with a three-point play by White to make it 77-76 with 28 seconds left.  Bishop Montgomery senior guard Justin Cobbs then missed a free throw but teammate Michael Panaggio got the rebound and found Richard Solomon under the basket to make 79-76, setting the stage for Gomez’s big shot.

“Throughout the season, my team has lived and died with my play so I shot the ball with confidence. Coach said shoot the ball and I did,” Gomez said.

Roy added, “He’s a four-year starter and he’s hit a lot of big shots for us.”

Things got testy in overtime when an apparent scoring error had both sides and their fans in an uproar. After Panaggio hit a three-pointer, the score was thought to have been 86-85 in favor of the Knights but according to the home book, it was Inglewood who led by that very margin.

The confusion took several minutes to sort out and the score was upheld, much to the chagrin of the Bishop Montgomery players and fans. The game continued at a back-and-forth pace until Sentinels guard Gerald Evans sealed the victory with two free throws with three seconds left.

It was almost bittersweet for Gomez to be the one to end his friend’s season and career as both played with an intensity that fans on both sides had to appreciate.

“I respect him a lot,” Gomez said, “He’s a great player and he played a great game.”

But that sting would be replaced by the sweet joy of victory and the chance to achieve one of his goals, winning a CIF championship in his senior year.

“That game just got us prepared for the big dance. Every team wishes they can play for a ring and we got the opportunity. We just have to take it.

Friday Night Roundup (Southern Section boys’ semifinals)

Riverside King 76, Dominguez 70 (Keala King [D] – 21 points)
Mater Dei 70, Etiwanda 60

Tesoro 62, Santa Monica 58
Ventura 66, Chino Hills 59

Leuzinger 62, Glendora 37
Thousand Oaks 89, Marina 57

Eisenhower 48, Damien 45
Loyola 80, La Mirada 60

Anaheim Canyon 67, Nogales 56
Santa Margarita 44, Arroyo Grande 41

Gahr 96, Golden Valley 87
Harvard-Westlake 67, Sonora 55

Inglewood 97, Bishop Montgomery 93 (OT) (Deshawn Gomez [I] – 35 points, Justin Cobbs [BM] – 47 points)
Ocean View 46, Gardena Serra 41

Chaminade 59, Oaks Christian 47
Price 69, Crespi 65 (OT)

Morningside 64, Santa Ana Calvary Chapel 45
Pacific Hills 83, Woodcrest Christian 81

La Verne Lutheran 70, CAMS 46
Windward def. Buckley (Anthony Stover [W] – 25 pts, 18 rebounds and a CIF-record 20 blocks)