Costa comeback denied

by Paul Teetor
Published February 21, 2008

It was a Friday Night Massacre that nearly became The Miracle on Manhattan Beach Boulevard.

But in the end, even with all the ingredients of a classic high school playoff basketball game -- two teams playing their hearts out, a screaming packed house of fanatical fans and big play after big play at both ends of the court -- it lacked one key element: a last-second Mira Costa victory.

Despite a stirring second-half comeback from a shocked-and-awed 14-point halftime deficit, the Mustangs boys basketball team came out on the short end of a much-closer-than-it-sounds 75-69 loss to Foothill Friday night in a rockin’ Fisher Gymnasium. The loss put a quick end to any deep-into-the-playoffs dreams Costa fans harbored for the Mustangs after a second place Bay League finish, a 16-10 overall record and their first playoff appearance in three years.

In the first half Foothill, which finished third in the Sea View League, simply couldn’t miss. They threw in three-pointers like it was shooting practice and powered the ball inside to lead 44-30 at halftime. Mustang fans staggered around in shock. They were the home team, right? They were higher ranked, right? So what was wrong?

But it all turned around during a thrilling second half that saw Costa, behind the intense play of bruising forwards Nick Ozer, Mike Miller and Nate Easterman, scrap, dive and fight its way back into a game that once seemed long gone. Finally, with 59 seconds left, 5-foot-11 quicksilver guard Adam Karacynski slithered along the baseline and somehow banked in a reverse lay-up through a forest of flailing Foothill arms. The bucket drew the Mustangs to within 72-69 and ignited the hopped-up crowd into a frenzy.

Suddenly hope was very much alive and the Mustangs forced a turnover when Foothill was unable to get the ball inside to Chad Miller. They came back down court needing a three-pointer to tie it or a bucket to draw within a point with plenty of time to go.

But a miscommunication on a simple perimeter pass led to a gift turnover for Foothill, which returned the favor 20 seconds later when they fumbled the ball out of bounds. Now the Mustangs had another chance to tie it or draw within one that would turn the final seconds into a foul-shooting contest. After the ball swung around the perimeter, Karacynski drove hard to the hoop and got fouled. With the hopes of the entire house riding on his slender shoulders, the senior guard missed the first foul shot to groans of disappointment. He carefully lined up the second shot but it too fell short as he fell to the court in a classic agony-of-defeat pose. Foothill’s Chad Miller grabbed the rebound, was fouled and hit two free throws to finish off any hopes for a miracle finish.

On top of its best season in a long time, the Mira Costa boys basketball team had one other major accomplishment this season: for one brief, shining night it brought back the kind of old-school barn-burner that makes high school basketball a timeless pleasure. ER