Ray Smith loves close, nail-biting, down-to-the-wire games.
Tuesday night at Foothill, the 6-foot-8 Las Vegas junior forward was smack dab in the middle of one, as the Wildcats (3-0) won 77-74 in overtime over the Falcons (3-2) in a Sunrise Region matchup.
“These games are amazing,” Smith, who has already received scholarship offers from UNLV, Oregon, Arizona State, San Diego State, New Mexico and Northern Arizona, said.
The amazing part was the back-and-forth nature of the entire game. Vegas’s largest lead was 56-48, while Foothill’s was 9-3.
Smith scored 21 points, while junior point guard Devon Colley book-ended the game, scoring the first and last baskets on the way to a game-high 22.
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Colley converted a double-clutch layin with one minute remaining in OT to increase the Vegas lead from one to three and help put the game away.
Colley’s most clutch shots came from the foul line near the end of regulation. After a basket from Foothill senior Ian Ellis put the Falcons ahead 66-64, Cooley answered by driving right to basket and converting an acrobatic layup in traffic that rolled in after hanging on the cylinder. It appeared to tie the game up, but it was waived off because Smith tapped the rim while looking to possibly rebound the miss.
After hitting the first free throw, there was a gap in play because of a Vegas timeout and a discussion between the referees. Cooley calmly hit the second free throw, sending the game into overtime.
“We made one more play, really that’s it,” Las Vegas head coach Jason Wilson said.
For the Wildcats, a team with mostly juniors playing meaningful minutes, winning on the road and facing a loud crowd and a proven program gives the players valuable experience early in the season.
“It was good for our kids to respond well, to compete well enough to make one more play and win,” Wilson said.
Foothill rallied back several times in the game, most notably in the fourth quarter. A 3-pointer from Vegas junior guard Patrick Savoy gave the Wildcats a 56-48 lead. The Falcons scored 16 of the next 23 points, capped off by 3-pointer from Foothill senior Austin Starr that gave his team a 64-63 lead.
Starr finished with 16 points, hitting several big 3’s throughout the game. Ellis led the Falcons with 18, while senior guard Jalen Shepard added 16.
Next up, Las Vegas will host Palo Verde on Thursday while Foothill hosts Green Valley next Tuesday.
STORY AND VIDEO BY BARRY WONG