Valentine’s Day on Tuesday was the Fremont Firebirds’ Super Bowl. A tough season dealing with key injuries and a handful of one-possession losses lent Fremont a disappointing 4-7 record heading into the league finale. With no playoffs on the horizon and facing the 8-3 Wilcox Chargers—whom Fremont had lost to earlier in the season—the Firebirds came out blazing, looking to end their season on a high note. The revenge victory seemed to be in the cards most of the night.
Fremont jumped out to a 9-0 lead in the first quarter on the strength of Dan Chizik’s first two threes of the game. The junior would finish the game with seven threes to lead the Firebirds in scoring.
In the third quarter, Fremont pushed their lead to its largest point at 56-35 when Chizik again hit back-to-back threes.
“He’s just a fantastic shooter,” chimed Firebirds Head Coach Tony Kikuta on his star junior. “He’s actually had a game where he had seven threes in the first half.”
“Usually when I make my first three I just start feeling it,” remarked Chizik on his hot shooting night. “I shoot best when I get hot. I felt confident and was just letting it go.”
Thanks in part to Chizik’s shooting and some great all-around playmaking by guards Navin Bhat and Justin Villanueva, the Firebirds never once trailed during regulation. Yet, in this extremely rare case, they still lost.
Wilcox battled back, making sure Chizik was bottled up. Chargers star guard Semaj Clark also finished with five three pointers to lead Wilcox, but it was his precision passing that stood out.
Down 61-48 late in the third quarter, Clark would end up with the ball after an offensive rebound. Clark spotted Mohan Panwar down by the basket for a buzzer-beating layup, pulling the Chargers back within 11 and giving the team momentum heading into the fourth quarter.
In the final frame, Wilcox just kept inching closer. Miles Bonilla hit a big corner three when it looked like Fremont was going to pull away again. Jaidev Shankar’s three pointer for the Firebirds with just over two minutes remaining pushed the lead to 74-66.
The Chargers quickly responded with a five-point barrage in less than 30 seconds though and it was all of a sudden 74-71.
A very questionable offensive foul call with 1:27 left on the clock erased a basket for the Firebirds, keeping the Chargers alive. After Panwar knocked down a pair of free throws, a second-straight questionable call went the Chargers’ way.
Trailing by just one, what looked like a clear jump ball with 27 seconds remaining was instead ruled a timeout for the Chargers. Wilcox would retain possession.
Bonilla then drove the paint and got fouled with 15 seconds on the clock. The Wilcox junior missed the first free throw, but the second one tied the game at 74-74.
On the ensuing possession, the Chargers forced Fremont into a turnover and Paulie Majoulet found himself at the free throw line with a chance to take the lead. Majoulet rimmed out both free throws and the game would go to overtime tied at 74.
A big three from Wilcox’s Brayden Rosa helped the Chargers carry a four-point lead for most of overtime, eventually winning 86-84.