BBK: Royals hang on for first Channel League victory

San Marcos’ Channel League boys basketball games are not for the faint of heart.

Christian Widmer drives between two Ventura defenders during San Marcos' 48-45 win over the Cougars. (Photo by

Christian Widmer drives between two Ventura defenders during San Marcos’ 48-45 win over the Cougars. (Photo by

The Royals were involved in another down-to-the-wire thriller against Ventura on Friday in their first home game of the season. Elijah Johnson hit a 3-pointer with 2:43 to go, the Royals went 6-for-6 from the free-throw line down the stretch and Christian Widmer’s defensive pressure prevented a clean look on game-tying 3-point shot attempt as San Marcos pulled out a 48-45 victory at the Thunderhut.

It was a much-needed win for the Royals (12-5, 1-2), who lost their first two Channel League games by a total of four points. They were coming off a loss at Dos Pueblos on a layup at the buzzer.

Widmer made sure the Royals wouldn’t get burned again at the wire. He didn’t give Ventura’s sharp-shooting Dylan Houck any chance of getting off a good shot from 3-point range at the buzzer.

Widmer played a solid game for the Royals, scoring 13 points and taking the ball inside to draw fouls. He led the way at the free-throw line, making 5-for-5.

“You could tell the loss against Dos Pueblos was so distasteful for him,” San Marcos coach Dave Odell said. “I could tell he had that in him. He just came to play.”

Free throws played a big part in the outcome as San Marcos made 10 of 11, while Ventura shot 7 of 16 from the stripe.

Elijah Johnson was the leading scorer for San Marcos with 16 points. He struggled from the 3-point line for most of the game, but he nailed a clutch shot from behind the arc during crunch time.

Elijah Johnson led San Marcos with 16 points. (Photo by )

Elijah Johnson led San Marcos with 16 points. (Photo by )

Tyson Miller also came up big in the fourth quarter. The sophomore knocked down a 3-pointer against Ventura’s zone for a 35-31 lead and he sank two free throws to put the Royals up by three, 48-45 with 8.3 seconds.

“If I could clone him… He’s just unbelievable, all the things he does for us, it’s unbelievable,” raved Odell about Miller’s play.

His contributions and those of other Royals were especially important with senior Bryce Ridenour slowed by a case of bronchitis.

Ventura was led by 6-6 center Trevor LaCount with 15 points, Isaac Gilbert added 10 points.

The Royals made their fans squirm a bit when they missed a wide-open layup while holding a 44-41 lead with less than 1:30 to go. But they got a big break when Ventura missed a driving layup and a tip.

Widmer was fouled on San Marcos’ next possession and he nailed his two free throws for a 46-41 lead with 38 seconds to go.

The Royals got the ball back but Widmer was called for a charging foul while driving to the basket with 22 seconds remaining.

Ventura’s Jack McKenzie scored on a driving layup to pull the Cougars to within one at 46-45 with 9.6 seconds left.

The Cougars fouled Miller and called timeout before he went to the line. He ended up nailing both free throws for the final points of the game.

“We just made plays down the stretch,” said Miller. “We almost gave it away, but down the stretch we had our home crowd and we were just feeling the energy.”