TRUCKEE — Dayton’s second option turned out to be the right one Tuesday night.
After host Truckee rallied from 12-point fourth-quarter deficit to knot the score at 41-all, Dayton senior guard Stevess Thompson fired a deep, buzzer-beating 3-pointer with two defenders in his face that snapped through the bottom of the net.
Dayton’s bench players rushed onto the court in celebration, having escaped with a 44-41 Division I-A win.
“Coach drew up a play, but there was not enough time, so I just tried to be aggressive and make something happen,” said Thompson, who finished with 12 points.
According to Dayton coach Jason Santos, the final play was intended for the post. But it wasn’t there, forcing the Dust Devils to kick it out to Thompson near the top of the key.
“We’ll take it,” Santos said. “He (Thompson) is real aggressive on offense. We knew we had to get it to him as the secondary option.”
While Thompson hit the most clutch shot of the game, taking over that distinction from Truckee junior Ryan Schildge, senior forward Bernardo Macias did most of the damage throughout the contest. He finished with 18 points and was instrumental in helping the Dust Devils (6-9) build a big early lead that lasted until the fourth quarter.
Using a pestering full-court zone press that became more effective as the game wore on, the Wolverines (2-13) scored 11 unanswered points to get back in the contest after trailing 40-28.
Schildge scored seven of his team-high 13 points in a three-minute span to help close the gap, including the tying basket on a baseline jumper with 25 seconds remaining.
The Wolverines fed off the energy of their large senior farewell crowd, which waited better than three quarters for reason to cheer. The fans got their chance midway through the final frame. Teagan Pado scored consecutive baskets, after an offensive rebound and a Truckee steal, and Schildge made three midrange shots from the baseline, the last of which tied the score.
Truckee, which never led in the game, made the late run with a short-handed crew of just seven players. Among those missing was junior guard and leading scorer Nick Oberriter, who left the gym before the game with a medical issue.
Without Oberriter’s spark, the Wolverines got off to a sluggish start offensively. They fell behind 7-1 in the opening minutes and 12-3 by the end of the first quarter. They picked up their game slightly in the second quarter and ended the half down 26-14.
The third quarter wasn’t much better as Macias continued to hurt the Wolverines inside. The 6-3 senior grabbed an offensive rebound and put it back just as the third-quarter buzzer sounded, giving Dayton a 36-26 lead entering the fourth.
“They just started playing within themselves and making shots,” Truckee coach Sky Nelson said of his team’s fourth-quarter comeback. “I felt like we pressed pretty good, and it was a good crowd.”
Truckee senior forward Louden Smith played aggressively and finished with 10 points, while Pado contributed seven points, and Sean Daniel and Chase Vankirk had four points apiece.