May 17, 2024

OC Sports Zone: Community First

PHOTOS: Uni advances to CIF playoffs with a late free throw against Woodbridge in PCL tie-breaker

University players, coaches and cheerleaders celebrate after the Trojans win on Sunday. (Photos: OC Sports Zone, Tim Burt).

University and Woodbridge boys basketball teams battled hard to the final buzzer Sunday at Uni with the Pacific Coast League’s final automatic berth to the CIF playoffs on the line.

But the outcome wasn’t decided until less than a second remaining when University senior Ali Wahedi made his second free throw, after missing the first one to put the Trojans ahead 59-58. Woodbridge’s Trey Long launched a desperation shot from the backcourt, but it came up short and the Trojan fans poured onto the court to celebrate the one-point win.

“It’s exciting for me, I’m more excited for the kids,” said University’s third year coach Beau Budde. “They put in a lot of work and we kind of had our ups and downs during league so it’s nice to come full circle and battle through adversity. I’m just really excited for the kids, I love this group.

“We definitely earned our spot in the playoffs for sure.”

Fans from both teams turned out in large numbers for the Sunday game, which was allowed this year to give teams the opportunity to complete their seasons. Although not all the bleachers were utilized, the stands that were used were fairly full.

University (12-15 overall) and Woodbridge (11-17) were part of a five-way tie for second place at the end of the regular season that concluded Saturday and since neither team had a .500 record, each needed to win to advance to the playoffs.

To see the slide show, click on the first photo:

Wahedi put up a shot following a miss in the final seconds to get a chance to win it at the line. Moments later he was being mobbed by teammates and other classmates.

“Honestly, I could not have done it without my teammates,” said Wahedi, who is in his first year on varsity. “I feel like we were playing at a great pace all night and they were setting me up the whole game. We just played altogether well as a team. It means a lot because we haven’t made the playoffs in a really long time.”

With the score tied 58-58, the Trojans called timeout with 16.4 seconds and advanced the ball to Wahedi who was fouled to set up the game winner.

Jad Hajj-Shehadeh led University with 24 points. Joseph Purser had 16 points and Wahedi 10 points. Woodbridge was led by Long, who had 20 points, Josh Lomboy who had 15 points and Nygle Williams, who had 11 points and 14 rebounds.

Williams, playing in just his second game since returning from a hand injury, also showed defensive toughness for the Warriors.

Woodbridge led 42-34 late in the third quarter before University battled back, cutting the lead to four points going into the final quarter.

Woodbridge seemed to regain control when it moved out to a 51-43 lead with 6:43 remaining before University battled back again.

“Have to give credit to Beau on having his team ready to play,” said Woodbridge Coach Steve Scoggin. He did a great job this season with that group. His kids made the big plays down the stretch.

“I couldn’t ask anymore from my guys. They left everything out on the court this season. I’m so proud of my kids this year, when it seems like no matter how hard you work things just don’t fall your way.

“But they came in every day and worked hard and were there for one another through everything. Everyone one of them grew as young men this season in the way they were able to handle adversity. This was a special group.”

Portola goes to the playoffs as the league’s top seed. Laguna Hills, which defeated Woodbridge Saturday is No. 2 and Beckman is No. 3.

Click here for more on the game.

—Tim Burt, OC Sports Zone; timburt@ocsportszone.com