Who says that boys basketball in the Metro Conference can't be exciting? Certainly, the packed stands Friday night at Hilltop High School gave a hint that something electric was in the air.
The host Lancers and Otay Ranch Mustangs, in fact, decided to give the full house its money's worth by playing an exciting overtime contest, ultimately won by the visitors 57-51.
The Jan. 21 game featured impressive runs by both teams but turned into a see-saw affair by the second half.
Hilltop entered the game 14-4 after defeating host Chula Vista, 67-46, two days earlier as Mesa League play tipped off while Otay Ranch entered the contest 13-4 after topping Bonita Vista 72-50, also on Jan. 19.
Alex Perez delivered a slam dunk on his first trip down court to ignite the crowd and Perez would light up the scoring lanes throughout the game, particularly when it counted most.
The Lancers countered with their own big man, Carlos Perez, and for most of the game, the two top scorers neutralized one another.
Hilltop used a 13-0 run to crawl back after initially going down on the scoreboard. But the Mustangs carried the momentum into the final stages of the second quarter to cut what had become a somewhat imposing Lancer lead down to three points. Hilltop, keyed by Mike Redd's inspirational play, led 24-21 at halftime.
However, the Lancers were forced to play catch up most of the second half as Otay Ranch's other shooters started hitting from the floor and the battle of the boards evened up. Hilltop, which seemed content to whittle seconds off the clock with its deliberate offensive sheme, would generate just enough momentum to go up by a pair before the Mustangs would counter with a fast-break.
Hilltop led 40-38 entering the final quarter.
The teams continued to trade buckets, with Otay Ranch getting the better of the opportunities. The game was tied 44-44 with 3:11 to play and 46-46 with 1:25 left in regulation as both defenses rose to the occasion.
Chris Shaw sank a three-point bomb with 1:04 left to give the hosts a 49-46 lead. But on the Mustangs' ensuing possession, Andre Jones dropped in a trey to knot up the teams at 49-all with 54 seconds left.
Both teams had chances to win the game in the waning stages of regulation but missed shots proved costly.
Hilltop's Omar Hernandez missed a pair of free throws with 23 seconds to play in the fourth quarter to the disappiontment of the home crowd.
A missed lay-in by Otay Ranch with 14 seconds to play left the teams in a 49-49 tie heading into the four-minute overtime period.
The Mustangs went up 51-49 but Carlos Perez sank two free throws with 3:06 left in the OT period to level the score at 51-51.
Otay Ranch proved to be the better team in crunch time. Jones dropped in two points and Alex Perez slipped in a bucket to put the visitors up by four points. Perez then sank two shots from the free throw line with 14 seconds to play in overtime to make it a six-point game.
Carlos Perez scroed the last shot with two seconds to play to pull Hilltop within four points, 57-53.
"It feels great (to get this win)," Otay Ranch's Perez said after the game, which was featured on KUSI-TV's new "All Sports Report" program, with a lvie post-game feed from the school. "They were on me night. I was missing shots I usually make early on."
"I just wanted to get that one shot off and hoped it would go in," Jones said. "Then I wanted to hand it over to him (Alex Perez), he's the man."
"It was a team win," said Otay's Perez, who led all scorers in the game with 26 points.
Carlos Perez finished the game with 20 points to lead Hilltop, which also received 12 points from Shaw.
Jones contributed 11 points for the Mustangs.
In other Mesa League boys hoops games on Friday:
Eastlake (2-0, 11-5) defeated host Bonita Vista, 48-46, behind 17 points from Aaron Baltazar and 13 points from Travis Gardner. Sebastian Kinnamon keyed the Barons (0-2, 6-11) with 14 points in the loss while teammate Travis Waller had 11 points.
Chula Vista (1-1, 10-8) topped Mater Dei Catholic, 58-51, behind 14 points from Ian Lapuz and 12 points from Jose Ramirez. The Crusaders fell to 0-2, 12-6.
The Mesa League race has tighted up a bit, with Eastlake and Otay Ranch sporting identical 2-0 league records, followed by Hilltop and Chula Vista at 1-1 and Bonita Vista and Mater Dei Catholic at 0-2.
In South Bay League boys hoops action Friday:
San Ysidro (3-2, 14-6) out-lasted Mar Vista, 65-59, as Eddie Martin (19 points), Javion Watson (18 points) and Armondo Guzman (10 points) all scored in double figures, Demarcus Henderson led the Mariners (3-2, 10-10) with 17 points in the setback while Jessoph Jameson and Jordan Lertique each scored 11 points.
Olympian (3-3, 8-11) pulled off a 64-37 upset victory against Southwest behind 15 points from Cobrin Humphrey, 12 points from Billy Moses and 11 points each from Michael White and Stephen Davis. The Raiders dropped to 4-1 in league, 13-7 overall.
The South Bay League race appears wide open with Southwest on top of the standings at 4-1 but followed by three teams each with 3-2 league records: San Ysidro, Mar Vista and Sweetwater. Olympian is 3-3, followed by Castle Park at 2-3 and Montgomery at 0-5.