Dons stave off big DP comeback at Sovine Gym

Joe Zamora called it “a big-time shot by a big-time player.”

With a few hundred screaming Dos Pueblos students behind him and six-foot-8 Malik Heptot in front of him, Santa Barbara High star Roberto Nelson pulled up and nailed a baseline 3-pointer with 1:13 left that put the Dons up 56-51.

It squashed a steamrolling comeback from Dos Pueblos, which trailed by 22 points at one point in the third quarter, and led to the Dons’ 58-51 Channel League boys basketball win at Sovine Gym Wednesday.

Nelson finished with a game-high 25 points, dealing with less-than-savory chants from the Charger crowd every time he stepped to the charity stripe.

“I don’t really listen to it. They’re fans and that’s what they’re supposed to do. There were good fans on both sides. The gym was loud,” said the Oregon State-bound senior. “I just worry about my game and doing what it takes to help the team win.”

A John Uribe lay-up at the 3:50 mark in the third quarter had the Dons up 42-20, but the Chargers would mount a 31-11 run until Nelson’s big shot.

“It was 24 minutes of us not executing… But I’ve got to hand it to my kids. In the fourth quarter they made a run and did what they wanted to do defensively and executed on the offensive end,” said Zamora. “The thing that was tough was when Roberto hit that 26-foot shot with Malik in his face, I mean that was a great shot.”

Energy and emotions were red-lining in Sovine during the game, and the pot boiled over midway through the third when shoves and words were briefly exchanged down in the post. Administrators stepped on the court to diffuse the situation quickly, and Heptot and Santa Barbara’s Chris Pratt were called for technicals on the play. Neither Zamora nor Dons coach Chris Hantgin viewed it as a major incident.

“These kids have all grown up with each other, and with the crowd screaming it’s a push here and a push there,” said Zamora. “Basketball’s a competitive sport, and I didn’t think there was anything malicious by either team.”

Sophomore Jay Larinan came up big for DP, scoring 17 points and doing a solid job covering Nelson. Heptot finished with only four points but tallied five of DP’s six blocks. Senior Robert Vickers was the catalyst in pushing the ball upcourt during the Chargers’ run, finishing with 10 points and 13 rebounds.

No other Don was in double figures besides Nelson, but the role players made plays when needed. Nelson credited his 3-pointer to a strong screen by Bryson Lloyd, who finished with seven points.

Santa Barbara stormed out of the gates to take a 28-14 lead at the half. The lead grew through the third, but Robbie Mestas banked in a trey at the buzzer to give the Chargers some momentum heading into the fourth. DP chipped away at the lead and the crowd kept getting louder, eventually going bonkers when Vickers drove to the hoop and drew the foul for a 3-point play at the 2:12 mark. Larinan followed with a steal and lay-up to cut the lead to two at 53-51, but Nelson’s big shot soon followed.

“I’m proud of the guys. They played hard and they were competing… We just need to be strong when the other team makes a run,” said Hantgin, who added that Nelson’s confidence down the stretch was the key.

“He understands the importance of these inner-city games, and in the last three minutes he really stabilized us to help us win,” said the coach.

DP (10-11, 1-3) hosts Ventura on Friday, while Santa Barbara (7-10, 2-2) is off until the Cougars pay a visit on Wednesday.



SANTA BARBARA — Thomas 8, Uribe 5, Nelson 25, Leonard 6, Lloyd 7, Maldonado 2, Fauntleroy 4. Totals 18 15-20 58.

DOS PUEBLOS — Muñoz 5, Hamilton 5, Renteria 5, Larinan 17, Heptot 4, Vickers 10, Mestas 5. Totals 17 15-24 51.

Santa Barbara….13  15  16  14 — 58

Dos Pueblos……5  9  17  20 — 51

3-point goals — SB 3 (Nelson, Uribe, Leonard), DP 2 (Hamilton, Mestas).

Total fouls — SB 20, DP 14.

Fouled out — Vickers.

Technicals — Heptot, Pratt.