Long Beach (Calif.) Poly High is a national basketball power (it's a national prep sports power full stop, for that matter, but basketball is a particular strength). After all, it was ranked No. 22 in the nation in the most recent RivalsHigh 100. In 2012, it will spend the Southern California Division I boys basketball final watching from the sidelines after falling to one of the more spectacular buzzer beaters of the season.
As covered extensively by the Fresno Bee and a handful of other California sources, Poly led Fresno (Calif.) Bullard High 52-51 with just six seconds remaining in the teams' regional semifinal. That was the bad news for Bullard fans. The good news was that Bullard had the ball along the sideline with a chance to win on a final shot.
The initial inbounds play made it seem like that bucket would be easy, with Bullard's Corey Silverstrom driving to the ball unobstructed after receiving a clean pass from the sideline. Yet, just as Silverstrom appeared likely to connect on a game-winning layup, Poly star Jordan Bell crashed the hoop and swatted the attempt off the backboard and out toward the perimeter.
As it turns out, the strength of Bell's block was particularly unlucky. As the ball trickled toward the sideline, Bullard's Walter Orr furiously chased after it, scooped it up and launched an audacious, buzzer-beating bomb turnaround from 40 feet away … and hit nothing but net, giving Bullard a stunning 54-52 upset victory.
"I got a quick look and released it," Orr told the Bee. "I didn't know how much time was left on the clock. And it went in."
The miraculous bucket brought a sudden end to Poly's season, all while extending the single best campaign in Bullard school history; the victory improved the Knights' season record to 32-3, a sterling slate built upon a furious full court press and a little bit of luck, as was evident on Tuesday.
"I knew after a couple practices we were a state-level team," Bullard basketball coach Tony Amundsen told the Bee. "Maybe at the moment we weren't, but I knew we would be at the end of the year."