“Maranatha High School in Pasadena is a 5A Division Team playing in 1AA Division,” said Coach Tim Tucker. But that didn’t stop the Minutemen from advancing to the CIF Division 1AA Championship game at Azusa Pacific University on Saturday Night. The Minutemen who have been on a whirlwind ride upsetting larger and higher ranked school like St. John Bosco and Tahquitz High School (Hemet) advanced to the finals and almost pulled off the dramatic victory.
The Minutemen suffered some devastating calls against their big men who got into early foul trouble and took the Minutemen out of their game plan. Terrance Lang, the two sport standout (6-foot-7 and 260 pounds), who led Maranatha to an overtime win over St. John Bosco, only played 14 minutes before fouling out. Lang only scored 4 points but still led all players in rebounds and was the subject of 2 very controversial offensive charging calls early in the game. Lang was the biggest player on the floor and when “they saw players bounce off him, and I’m not sure they were even looking for a foul,” coach Tim Tucker said late Saturday night many in the stands call Lang the victim of the “Shaq Factor”.
Chris Austin led Maranatha in scoring with 16 points including several key shots to keep the Minutemen within striking distance of Rancho Verde.
Sean Espinosa was the floor leader for Maranatha and delivered on several key buckets, assist, steals and rebounds for the Minutemen. Espinosa stepped up when and wherever needed to keep Maranatha in the game. The senior shooting/point guard was the second leading scorer for the Minutemen with 11 points, 5 steals and delivered several key assists. His thrilling inbounds steal and basket with 30 seconds remaining to pull the Minutemen to within 4 brought the crowd to its feet and led what many felt was another magical Maranatha comeback. Maranatha pressed and then stole the ball again and Chris Austin connected on a 3 pointer to make it a one point game. Maranatha was forced to foul sending the Mustangs to the line where they missed the first free throw but hit on the second leaving the Minutemen only 2.5 seconds to take a desperation 3 from the other side of half court as time ran out.
While the lost was disappointing for Maranatha, they advanced to the State Round of the playoffs where they hosted Bakersfield in the opening round on Wednesday night. The Drillers defeated the Minutemen 66-62.