McAndrews’ buzzer beater stuns West Wendover, sends Lakers to league championship
Before the ball ever left North Tahoe junior guard Cameron McAndrews’ hand, he knew it was going in.
The No. 5 seed North Tahoe boys’ basketball team shocked No. 1 seed West Wendover Friday night in Sparks, pushing the regular season league champions to overtime before McAndrews banked in a deep, high-arcing 3-pointer just before the buzzer sounded to give the Lakers a 62-61 win.
“Right when Liam (Bickett-Walsh) gave it to me, I knew it was in,” said McAndrews. “I knew that one was going in. I didn’t even know it was a game winner … we’re going to Vegas.”
The game-winning shot sends the Lakers into Saturday’s league championship game against Incline and qualifies the team to next week’s state tournament in Las Vegas.
McAndrews’ overtime heroics capped off a gritty performance by a North Tahoe squad that never stopped battling through four quarters and an overtime period.
“I’m absolutely proud of these guys and the way they battled that entire game,” said Head Coach Devin Ginty. “It’s really a reflection of their character and the hard work they’ve been putting in all season.”
The Lakers had a chance to win in regulation after the Wolverines were called for traveling with 24 seconds left. In the final sequence, a pick and roll play between Bickett-Walsh and center John Zapata was broken up, but after a scramble for the ball, Zapata ended up with a decent look at the basket as the final seconds ticked off, but his shot rolled off the rim, leaving the game tied 52-52.
The Lakers jumped out to an early advantage in overtime, scoring off a putback by sophomore Ben Trujillo. The teams went on to trade leads until the 1:11 mark when the Wolverines took a two-point edge off a trio of free throws.
With under a minute remaining and trailing 58-56, McAndrews gave North Tahoe the lead off a corner 3-pointer. The Lakers junior would have a chance to extend the team’s lead on the following possession, but missed the front half of a one-and-one.
North Tahoe put West Wendover junior Jesus Gonzalez at the line with 47.3 seconds remaining. The Wolverines guard sank both free throws to give West Wendover a 60-59 advantage. Zapata would be tied up on the next possession for a jump ball, giving West Wendover possession. North Tahoe again put the Wolverines at the free throw line. West Wendover hit the first attempt and missed the second, but collected the offensive rebound.
As the Wolverines swung the ball around in an effort to kill time, a West Wendover player lost his balance near the baseline and attempted to find a teammate near half court. Bickett-Walsh intercepted the pass, and pushed it ahead to McAndrews, who launched a deep, rainbow 3 from the left side as the final seconds ticked away.
“I just screamed as loud as I can … I can’t believe it right now,” said McAndrews on watching the shot fall.
“I wanted to upset (West Wendover). I wanted to go to Vegas so bad.”
The Wolverines would have only enough time to inbound the ball before the final buzzer sounded, giving the Lakers the upset win over the Class 2A Northern League’s top-seeded squad.
“It’s all because of Coach Ginty,” said McAndrews. “He’s changed the culture here.”
North Tahoe will now face No. 2 seed Incline at Sparks High School on Saturday at 1 p.m. for the Class 2A Northern League championship. The Highlanders own wins of 64-35 and 48-30 against the Lakers this season. Incline was also the last team to hand North Tahoe a loss. The Lakers have since ripped off four consecutive wins, and are playing their best ball of the season.
“Every day that we have together and every day that we have to practice, we just keep getting better,” said Ginty. “Those guys have been super coachable and they are a great group of guys. I’m so happy for them because they’ve been working their butts off to get to a point like this and get the respect they deserve.”
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As seniors from North Tahoe collected diplomas this week, a group of Lakers continued another local tradition — capturing first place at the boys’ regional golf championship.