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49ers advance to Elite 8
Yuba men squeak past Las Positas
Spencer Butterfield prefers a defender in his face when he shoots — except this time.
With less than a minute remaining and his No. 2 Yuba College team uncomfortably up 81-78, the sophomore guard found himself alone in the corner.
De'Aundray Robinson saw his teammate, dished it — splash.
Butterfield nailed the triple, essentially icing a battle against No. 7 Las Positas and helping the 49ers punch a ticket into the state's Elite 8.
Wednesday's 86-83 victory in the NorCal Regionals was never safe. Yuba's largest lead of 11 was brief and Las Positas' biggest advantage was five points. The Hawks (22-8) even had a chance to tie things up with 4 seconds remaining.
"Holy smokes," said Yuba College coach Doug Cornelius. "We needed that. Hopefully, that will give us some motivation to work hard during the next two days and prepare for Saturday."
Yuba (31-3) will host No. 3 Santa Rosa (26-5) on Saturday night. The winner will join either Fresno City or San Francisco to represent the north side of the bracket in the Final Four, which will be played at Cosumnes River College in Sacramento next week.
The team's leading scorer didn't have his best game, and he admits as much.
"My shots weren't falling, but I knew my teammates needed me, and what was more important is that they kept giving it to me," said Butterfield, who averaged 16.6 points per game coming into the contest. He finished with 14 points.
"(Spencer) had a terrible game, and he'll be the first one to tell you that," Cornelius said. "He just never lost confidence."
Butterfield saved a mishandled ball from going out of bounds by tossing it up to Robinson just before the shot. It would have been the 17th turnover by the 49ers — one of the few glaring weaknesses by either team.
Yuba's Anthony Romero started off hot by going for 6 for 6 from outside the perimeter before missing his first shot, wrapping up the first half with 20 points. However, he finished with 23 after Las Positas clamped down on defense.
"You have to give (Las Positas) a ton of credit," Cornelius said. "They changed their defense a few times, keyed in on our guards and really took us out of rhythm."
Romero didn't shine alone in the first half as the Hawks' Jarred Jourdan put up 19 points, and eventually led all scorers with 34.
A 46-39 Yuba cushion at halftime was almost immediately erased as Jourdan and Dylan Heath combined to score 23 of the Hawks' first 25 second-half points. Heath hit four 3-pointers and finished with 16.
The intensity picked up when the Hawks, who hung around all game, finally cut Yuba's lead to 55-52 at 15:16 on Heath's third 3-pointer.
Damarr Eagles then snagged a loose ball and found Jourdan on an alley-oop that silenced the raucous home crowd and made the score 55-54.
Yuba pushed its lead back to five points with some hard-fought buckets by Robinson, Cody Kale and Kevin Crabb before the 49ers shook the gym out of a timeout.
Kale dished a pretty alley-oop to a base-line driving Robinson at the 12-minute mark to give the 49ers a 63-56 lead.
But Jourdan responded with a dribble-drive to the basket and picked up an extra point at the free-throw line.
Crabb finished with 17 points, 10 rebounds and four blocks, Kale had 14 points and six assists and Robinson scored 10 and recorded six steals.
Just before taking their first of three leads with 10:30 left, the Hawks went on a 20-8 run and eventually led 76-71 with 6:30 remaining.
But Yuba had an answer.
"We knew they couldn't stop us in the post," Cornelius said. "We tried to feed it to Crabb and Robinson as much as we could."
The 49ers got a couple of free throws from Crabb, a pair of scooping layups by Kale to get back in the game, and a strong putback by Butterfield to regain the lead with 3:10 remaining.
Las Positas then went cold and turned it over twice in the final 3 minutes.
Following Butterfield's big 3-point shot, the Hawks picked up three shots from the stripe to bring the game back to a two-possession game, but Butterfield sank two free throws to give Yuba an 86-80 lead with 25 seconds to go.
"We don't care who we play next," Butterfield said. "Our goal is a state championship. We'll be ready."
CONTACT Bryan DeMain at email@example.com or 749-4789. Find him on Facebook at advarsitysports or on Twitter at @ADbdemain.