Instead, senior Angel Guillen capped an improbable ending with his 36th point of the afternoon, by sinking a putback with 3.6 seconds left in the game, sealing a 79-77 non-league victory over cross-town rival Reed.
"I'm proud of the kids that we can play a close game and come out on top," Sparks boys basketball coach Dick Lee said.
While Sparks took control from the first quarter, building a double-digit lead five minutes into the contest, the Raiders were never far behind thanks to a full-court press that gave the Railroaders fits at times.
Despite trailing by eight heading into the fourth quarter, 56-48, Reed's press made sure the home team would not pull away further.
With 3:15 remaining in the game, Reed's Taylor Yancey made it rain from the corner. His only 3-pointer of the game cut the gap to 66-64.
Guillen was Sparks' answer for everything in the fourth quarter. His 3-pointer from the top of the key made it a 71-66 game with 2:39 to play. But the Railroaders watched as the Blue and Gold struck for five straight points in a 30-second span, four by Yuriy Ikovlev and a free throw by Roberto Velazquez, tying the game at 71-71 with 2:01 on the clock.
Guillen hit a pair of free throws as part of his 14-point fourth quarter, but Velazquez and Ikovlev answered right back with back-to-back buckets, finally giving Reed the lead at 75-73 with just over a minute left in the game.
Ironically, the Raiders should never have owned the lead. Ikovlev re-entered the game with 3:02 remaining, but he had committed his fifth foul earlier in the fourth. It wasn't until he picked up his sixth foul that the officials claimed responsibility for the mistake and did not punish Reed, so Ikovlev's six points during the 9-2 run remained a key factor.
Guillen went back to business, hitting another pair of clutch free throws, knotting the score at 75-75 with 52 seconds to go.
Reed broke the full-court pressure and Velazquez scored the go-ahead basket in transition 4 seconds later.
Guillen was fouled again with 32 seconds left and tied it at 77-77.
The Raiders had a win within their grasp as they could take the final shot. However, the east Sparks school appeared to turn the ball over on the baseline with 5.4 seconds on the clock. Instead, Reed was called for a foul, sending Brian Morgan to the line for a double bonus situation.
The foul call ignited Reed fans, coaches and players alike, but it actually turned beneficial for the Raiders when Morgan missed both free throws. The problem for Reed was not boxing out a determined Guillen who pulled down the rebound between two defenders and put up an off-balance shot that went in with 3.6 seconds left. Guillen scored the final 11 points of the game for Sparks (1-2).
Reed (0-2) could not get off a desperation shot before the buzzer.
Joining Guillen in double figures for Sparks were Martin Jordan with 20 and Andrew Garcia with 10.
"They scored well for us and took some leadership responsibilities on the court," Lee said of some of his returning players that he was disappointed with against Wooster. "I heard some communication out there."
The Raiders had four players in double digits in the scoring column. Mike Powell paced Reed with 17 points. Yancey added 16, while Ikovlev and Velazquez contributed 14 and 11 points respectively.