Still, Hug, the Northern 4A champion, held on for a 70-68 win over Green Valley and advances into tonight’s 4A state championship final against perennial national and state power Bishop Gorman, of Las Vegas. Tip-off is set for 8 p.m.
“It seemed like we were trying to do everything to give that game away,” Hug coach Charles Walker said. “But hey, it worked out for us so I can’t complain ... Now we have a chance to go out there and shock the city, shock the nation. We have a big giant tomorrow night. I’m pretty sure they’re going to be up for it.”
Hug led 62-52 after junior post Sam Williams made 1 of 2 foul shots with 1:55 remaining in the postseason affair. That’s when it got a little hairy for Hug.
Hug connected on just 8 of 14 free throws in the final 1:39. Meanwhile, Green Valley converted a 3-point play, got a tip-in and knocked down a trio of treys.
The last of those 3-pointers got Green Valley within one, 69-68, with 28 seconds to go.
Hug’s Andrew Johnson buried two free throws with 25 ticks to go, but after Green Valley finally missed a crunchtime shot from beyond the arc, the Gators fouled Williams with 10 seconds still left. Williams missed both free throws, leaving a last-gasp chance for GV.
Green Valley got off a jumper and two contested putback tries, but all three bounced off the rim and away, preserving the Hug victory.
Hug looked like it was going cruise to the tourney triumph. The Hawks led by as much as 18 twice and still led by 15, after a Williams jump hook on the baseline, that left 3:43 on the game clock.
Green Valley outscored Hug 28-14 in the fourth quarter to throw a scare into the High Desert League school.
“We played well,” Walker said. “We did better in the second half on rebounding. They just didn’t stop. They got hot and started knocking down threes and getting to the cup. We were just in la-la land a couple times ... We missed some gimmes, and we’re a pretty good free-throw shooting team. But we hit the ones we needed to, to get that ‘W’.”
The Hawks got off to a good start. They trailed 4-3 1:24 into the contest, but outscored the Gators 13-5 over the next three-plus minutes. The spurt was capped by a Johnson three-point play that left the HHS hoopsters on top 16-9 with 2:10 remaining in the initial period.
Hug wound up leading 18-13 at the end of the first quarter. The Hawks extended their edge to 12, 34-22, after Williams sank a pair of foul shots with three minutes remaining before halftime.
Hug had to settle for a six-point edge at the break, 34-28, as Green Valley posted the last six points before halftime.
Hug grabbed the momentum and ran away when it ripped off the an 11-0 outburst to begin the third period. A pair of Williams layups concluded the spurt that forged Hug ahead, 45-28, less than three minutes into the second half.
With 3:07 left in the third, Felix Cox got 1-of-2 free throws to fall and Hug led 50-32. It was the Reno school’s largest lead of the night.
“We don’t want to make excuses,” Green Valley coach Lorenzo Jarvis said. “We came out a little sluggish and weren’t playing our way, the way we normally play. We got back into it in the second half. You can make every excuse in the world but it doesn’t matter. We had a chance to win the game and we didn’t take care of that opportunity. Now we live with it. We own it and move on.”
Johnson and Williams keyed the Hug offensive attack, pouring in 23 and 21 points respectively. Norris Dupree chipped in 13 for the Hawks (24-3).
Green Valley was led by the 22 points of DePaul-bound Durrell McDonald. Devan Kohn and Ikaika Pladera added 15 and 13 for Green Valley, which ends its season with a 17-13 record.