Jason Harward co-editor-in-chief
Junior forward Chandler Sooferian hit the winning basket in overtime with just 4.7 seconds left.
Overcoming a 29-19 halftime deficit and an 11-point deficit with just over four minutes left in regulation, the Normans proved they have what it takes to hang with the best teams in the state. Coach Jarvis Turner thought the role players were what brought the team storming back.
“It was the team, the ‘others.’ Daniel [Zahabian] fouled out. We didn’t have one of our best players tonight with Ben [Ramirez], and four guys fouled out,” Turner said. “Other guys had to step up and play, and they did that. They were huge.”
Two particular role players Turner recognized were sophomore guard Ryan Kim, who locked on to Capistrano Valley’s ball handlers through much of overtime, and junior forward Matt Liner, who hit a late free throw to put the Normans up 57-56 in overtime. Liner shouted out his teammates in the chaotic aftermath of the victory.
“It’s all about the team,” Liner yelled as students stormed the court following the emotional victory.
Senior captain Navid Nour attributed the late comeback to the team playing with nothing to lose, as the contest was win or go home.
“We played so hard like it was our last game ever,” Nour said. “We had to be better than the human element. The refs were tough, but we overcame the hardest of them all.”
The home court advantage continued for the Normans, who improved to 11-0 at home in regular and postseason play this season. During the improbable late comeback, the Swim Gym was shaking from the pure noise of the home crowd. Turner stressed that the student section was an integral part of why the comeback materialized.
“What our students have to understand and buy into a little bit more is that they are a major factor, and they can help win games and keep us in games,” Turner said. “It gets our guys over the hump to see everyone cheering, and at the end of the game, all that noise while they were shooting free throws, I’ve been there, that affects guys.”
The playoff push continues in the quarterfinals on Tuesday, Feb. 20, with a 7 p.m. home game against Cajon High School, a team hoping to continue its 15-game win streak.
Additional reporting by Sam Bernstein.