By Nick Giannandrea
The College of the Sequoias men's basketball team capped an unprecedented season with a dramatic finish.
Scott Ator rebounded his own missed free throw with his back to the basket, spun and tossed up the game-winning shot with 0.6 seconds left to lift the Giants to a 73-72 victory over Cerro Coso on April 1 in Ridgecrest.
It was Sequoias' only lead of the game after blowing out the Coyotes 84-57 a night earlier at Porter Field House.
"What a weird way to end a weird year," Giants coach Dallas Jensen said. "We came out kind of slow and lethargic. We had trouble making open shots early on. But we showed some resilience and we competed for the entire 40 minutes. The fact we took our first lead with 0.6 seconds left was a really cool way to win a basketball game."
Sequoias finished 8-1 and winners of its last four games during a season delayed from a typical early November start and shortened from 28 regular-season games because of Covid-19 safety precautions.
The Giants have the most wins among the nine California community college men's basketball teams that have played so far.
There are no state playoffs this season.
"I think the fact we had these guys in town and they had as much face to face interaction as they did was huge for camaraderie to help us build a solid foundation," Jensen said. "It really helped on the development side of things. They gained an ability to continue to develop and gain exposure. And it kept them positive and upbeat during a tough time with this pandemic. There were a lot of blessings in having these guys with us. It was a lot of fun."
Ator, a sophomore transfer out of Murphy, Texas, led Sequoias with 19 points, eight rebounds, a block and a steal.
Conner Jackson (Dublin) added 16 points, nine rebounds, five assists, two steals and a block.
The Giants also received five points, four assists, one rebound, one block and one steal from Amil Fields (Hayward); four points, two rebounds and a block from Ayo Aderoboye (Nigeria); two points, six rebounds and an assist from Ryan Troutman (Kerman); and two points, three rebounds and two assists from Mohammed Adam (Marina).
On March 31, Sequoias outscored Cerro Coso 45-26 in the second half to expand an eight-point halftime lead en route to a 27-point victory.
Johnson, a returning all-state performer, paced the Giants with 25 points, nine rebounds, three steals and a block.
Fields delivered 18 points, four rebounds, three assists, a block and a steal, while Aderoboye added 16 points, three rebounds, two steals, one assist and one block.
Adam flirted with a triple-double (eight points, nine rebounds and 10 assists) for Sequoias, which also received six points, two rebounds and a steal from Dawson; six points, three rebounds, two steals and an assist from Troutman; and a point, four rebounds and two blocks from Ator.
Looking toward November, when California community college basketball is expected to return to a complete championship season, the Giants are expected to return all but three from their 12-player active roster: Aderoboye, Johnson and Fields.
Aderoboye -- a 6-foot-7 sophomore combo guard/forward who averaged 3.8 points, 2.9 rebounds and 1.0 assists per game -- has committed to Holy Names, an NCAA Division II university in Oakland.
Johnson, a 5-4 sophomore guard/forward, and Fields, a 6-6 sophomore forward, are each fielding offers from multiple schools.
Johnson averaged a team-leading 18.6 points per game along with 8.2 rebounds, 1.8 assists, 1.7 steals and 1.1 blocks; while Fields averaged 9.0 points, 3.1 rebounds and 1.6 assists a game.
Jensen and assistants Tommy Lou, Tye McCord, Tie Sims and Robert Powell expect the rest of the roster -- 6-4 freshman guard Nicolas Allen (Georgia), 6-2 sophomore guard Jakcson, 6-3 freshman guard Troutman, 6-1 sophomore guard Adam, 6-5 sophomore guard Dawson, 6-3 freshman forward Nick Trevino (Redwood), 6-8 sophomore forward/center Tiveon Stroud (Selma), 6-10 sophomore center Tyler Harris (Scotts Valley), and 6-8 forward Ator -- back next season. They also expect redshirt freshmen including Jahmai Bartley, a 6-5 guard from Oakland; Ryan Harris, a 6-8 forward from Scotts Valley; Andre Treadwell, a 6-3 guard from Sacramento; and Lucus Willrich, a 6-11 center from Yuba City; to return.
"There is always a chance a guy will pick up an offer, but all the guys told us they want to be here," Jensen said. "They want to graduate with their (Associate of Arts degree) and to give themselves an opportunity of moving forward. We feel fortunate these guys enjoy this environment. We are going to try and build on what we did this year."