The only reason Robert Nolan was in the game for the Mills basketball team is because starting guard Joseph Worku had fouled out. Nolan made only one basket on the night but there was none bigger as his driving layup with three seconds to play gave the Vikings a 57-55 lead over Aragon. A pair of free throws from Marquis Adkins iced the Vikings’ 59-55 win over the Dons Friday night in San Mateo.
Nathan Mollat/Daily Journal
Joseph Worku drives to the basket en route to a 15-point night as Mills upset Aragon 59-55 in PAL South Division play Friday night.
"It was pretty nervewracking for … [Nolan]. You have to hand it to him,” said Mills coach Rick Hanson. "I’m very proud of [him]. It couldn’t happen to a nicer kid.”
Aragon (1-1 PAL South, 10-4 overall) led by 10 after the first quarter, 16-6, and led 30-21 at halftime, but Mills (2-0, 9-5) battled back in the second half. The Vikings cut their deficit to just three by the end of the third quarter and started the fourth quarter with a 9-0 run to take a 49-43 lead with 6:13 left in the game.
Aragon, however, rallied to tie the score at 55 on a pair of Nick Frankel free throws with 22 seconds to play, setting up Nolan’s heroics.
"[We] hung in there pretty good,” Hanson said.
After beating the Dons’ full-court press, Nolan found himself with the ball at the top of key with time winding down. An Aragon defender went for a steal and got a piece of the ball, but Nolan retained possession. He briefly thought about taking a long-range jumper but, when he saw the lane open up, he put the ball on the floor and released a floating shot over a second Aragon defender. The ball rolled around on the rim for a beat before falling through for the 57-55 lead.
Aragon had one last chance, but that went by the wayside when a long pass on the inbound play hit a girder high above the Dons’ new gym, resulting a turnover and possession to Mills. Adkins was quickly fouled and he nailed both free throws for the final margin.
Making Mills’ win even more dramatic was the fact the Vikings lost not only Worku but also point guard Matty Wong. The heart and soul of the Mills lineup fouled out within 30 seconds of each other with about three-and-half minutes to play. The Vikings scored only six points the rest of the way, but they were enough to hold off the Dons.
"There was a lot of time left and it’s hard to hold on for that long,” Hanson said.
While Nolan may have been the last-second hero, there were a bunch of them for the Vikings. Worku finished with a team-high 15 points and Wong added 12. Sereno Esponilla finished with 13, but the Vikings got the biggest boost from 6-3, 230-pound Jeremy Gibbs. Built like a forward, Gibbs shoots it like a guard and his three 3-pointers were crucial in the Vikings’ run in the second half. His first 3 came with 2:40 to play in the third quarter, cutting Aragon’s lead to 39-32. Just over a minute later, he knocked down another and Mills was down just three, 41-38. His third trey of the game came with 7:21 left in the game and gave Mills a 45-43 advantage, its first lead since the opening quarter.
"That was a big boost,” Hanson said of Gibbs’ 3s. "He can do that. He’s a good shooter.”
Early on, however, it appeared Aragon was going to run away from the Vikings. After Mills took a 4-2 lead, the Dons exploded for a 11-0 run and when Alex Manu hit a 3 with 13 seconds left, the Dons led 16-6.
The Dons continued their hot play in the second quarter and led 30-21 at halftime as they bombed away from 3-point land. Aragon hit seven 3s in the first half and finished with nine for the game.
Frankel was unconscious from behind the arc as he drained four 3s in the first half alone on his way to a game-high 23 points. He finished with six 3-pointers on the night. None were deeper than his 40-foot bomb as the halftime buzzer sounded and all indications were it was going to be Aragon’s night.
Unfortunately for the Dons, Frankel was the only player to score in double figures. Kevin Hahn finished with eight points, hitting a pair of 3s in the process. Forward David Manoa finished with seven points.