Pride was on the line.
The Raiders played with pride — and almost lost at the end —withstanding a North Valleys comeback attempt late in the second half Friday night to win a nail-biting 61-59 decision.
Reed began the second half by going on an 11-0 run to make the score 41-27 in its favor with 5:05 left in the third.
A.J. Silva and Kyle Ross scored another six points combined to increase the cushion to 17 points at 47-30 with 3:05 to go.
Silva drained a couple of free throws and hit a runner on back-to-back possessions to give the Raiders their largest lead of the game at 51-32 with 2:00 left in the third period. At that point, Reed’s 19-point lead looked like it would force the Panthers to wave the white flag.
They did not.
Panthers forward Nick Palko demanded the ball in the post for the next couple of minutes and in the process he earned six free-throw attempts, making four. The third ended with a score of 52-42 in Reed’s favor.
A rally worthy for Senior Night had begun after the Panthers chipped away nine points in the final two minutes of the third.
Reed’s sophomore guard Ty Shepard began the final period by hitting a 15-foot jumper from the wing.
North Valleys responded by scoring the next five points to bring the score to 54-47 with 6:20 to go. The Panthers and the Raiders then traded one free throw each with 3:47 left.
Palko, along with another NVHS senior, forward Brandon Owen, scored the next five points highlighted by a 3-point play that brought the Panthers to within four at 57-53 with 2:09 left in the final period.
Reed senior Dylan Raatz, who was unavailable against Hug earlier in the week, sank two foul shots with just under two minutes to play.
Palko and Owens powered in another pair of buckets to get their team to within 59-57 with 1:23 left.
Raider senior forward Roberto Velazquez grabbed an offensive rebound off a Ross missed free throw. He made one of two to give Reed a four-point cushion with 33 seconds to go in its last game of the season.
North Valleys senior Jordan Digiulio then drew a foul with 20 seconds left. He nailed both of his free throws.
Reed had a chance to put the game away with four free throws by both Dylan McKenzie and Ross. They missed all four so that meant that the Panthers had four seconds to get the ball down the court to take a potential game-winner. Digiulio heaved up a 40-foot prayer while Panthers fans stood with their arms in the air hoping for a miracle.
The ball bounced high off the backboard as the buzzer sounded and the crowd groaned.
“We were lucky that shot didn’t go in, “said Dustin Hall, Reed’s head coach. “It was a good environment and a magical night for them for something like that to happen.”
It was also a good ending to a slightly disappointing year for the Raiders.
“Obviously we didn’t reach our goals, “Hall said. “Hopefully next year we can turn it around and get into the playoffs. Give the kids credit. We’re proud of them for gutting it out and getting the win.”
Silva led the Raiders with 13 points, Ross poured in 12, and Raatz chipped in eight along with 14 rebounds.
Palko paced the Panthers with 15 points and Owens followed with 11.
Reed finished the season at 7-12 overall and 4-12 in league play.