AURORA -- The play was there, a backdoor cut to the basket.
North Marion and visiting Gladstone were tied and the 4A Tri-Valley Conference boys basketball title was on the line Friday night.
The next two points in the Huskies’ 51-49 win became the hardest as senior guard Jared Hauser received the inbound pass and dished it out to junior guard Sergio Jimenez.
Jimenez had a clear lane to the basket but was fouled with two seconds left, sending him to the free throw line. He calmly made the first free throw, and after a Gladstone timeout, he swished the second.
“All I was thinking about was them and doing it for them,” said Jimenez, who finished with 19 points. “I had no doubt in my mind. We’ve played hard this whole game and I wasn’t about to lose this game for teammates. We’re all going hard, we’re all tired … I was not about to lose that game for my teammates.”
Said Hauser: “We knew Serg was going to make both. We had the confidence in him.”
Ninth-ranked Gladstone already had made two buzzer-beating three-pointers in the game, one by senior wing Drew Pulsipher at the end of the first quarter and another by sophomore wing Jude Ashpole entering halftime.
The Gladiators got the ensuring inbound pass at half court to senior guard Damian Zaines. He caught the pass and fired a shot that missed its mark at the buzzer.
“Gladstone’s a tough team, a very good team,” Jimenez said. “It was a physical game and we battled all the way to the end.”
Hauser finished with 13 points for North Marion. Ashpole and sophomore guard Thomas Tacha had 14 and 10 points, respectively, for Gladstone.
North Marion (14-9, 8-1), which avenged a 67-52 loss at Gladstone on Jan. 25, is one game ahead of the Gladiators (16-7, 7-2) heading into the final night of conference play Tuesday.
The Huskies can wrap up the Tri-River title outright with a win at Corbett (11-11, 5-4). Gladstone will play host to Molalla (2-19, 1-8).