There was no chance for last second heroics when the Dunsmuir High School boys basketball team’s Northern Section playoff run ended Tuesday night in Paradise.
No. 6 Dunsmuir was stopped cold in the Division VI semifinals by No. 2 Paradise Adventist Academy, 76-48.
Dunsmuir, which tied for second place in the Evergreen League with Happy Camp, finished the 2011-12 season 16-10 overall, including two postseason wins.
Paradise Adventist (21-6), undefeated champions in the Pioneer-Valley League, moves on to play for the section title Friday afternoon at Chico State University.
Dunsmuir scored 6 points in the final 5 seconds of regulation to survive a second round Division VI playoff game Friday night, Feb. 24, at Redding Christian.
Senior Daniel Ballard made a three-point shot to get the Tigers within 3, then senior Jake Mekeel got fouled while attempting a shot at the buzzer from just short of half court.
Mekeel made three free throws with no time on the clock to force overtime, and Dunsmuir defeated No. 3 Redding Christian, 63-58.
The Tigers opened the postseason with a 71-55 win over No. 11 Redding Adventist Feb. 21 in Dunsmuir.
A hot start gave the Tigers a 37-17 lead at the half, and they increased the margin to 25 in the third quarter.
“We played really well for three and a half quarters,” Dunsmuir head coach Dan Ballard said.
Daniel Ballard made 4 three-point shots and scored 20 points against Redding Adventist, while Jake Mekeel and junior Mason Mekeel scored 16 each.
At Redding Christian three nights later, coach Ballard said the Tigers trailed by 7 at the half, cut the lead to 4 in the third quarter, but trailed by 6 with time ticking away.
After Daniel Ballard’s three-pointer cut the deficit in half with 5 seconds to play, the Tigers fouled, and Redding Christian missed the front end of a 1 and 1.
Dunsmuir had enough time for one last long shot by Jake Mekeel, and when he got fouled on the play, Dunsmuir girls head coach Jim Rinne looked at his assistant, principal-superintendent Len Foreman, and said, “They fouled the wrong guy.”
Jake Mekeel was no stranger to late game heroics as he stepped to the line needing to make three free throws to keep the Tigers’ season alive.
As a sophomore two years ago, Jake made a three-point shot at the buzzer to force overtime in a playoff game the Tigers won at Champion Christian in Chico. On that play, according to an article in the Dunsmuir News archives, the pass to Jake hit his shin and bounced inside the three-point line. He grabbed the ball, stepped back behind the line, and made the shot while falling back.
Then that spring, in a section baseball playoff game at Big Valley, with the Tigers trailing by 1 and down to their final strike, Jake hit a two-run opposite field home run that put the Tigers on top to stay.
At Redding Christian, with no time on the clock and no other players in the lane, Jake was right on target with his first two free throws, then had to wait when the opposing coach called a time out.
That bothered him not at all, and he hit nothing but net on the third shot. The Tigers then dominated in overtime.
“He’s a gamer,” Foreman said of Jake. “He doesn’t appear to have nerves.”
“He’s a gifted athlete, and one of his main gifts is being able to focus out extraneous pressures and come through in the clutch,” Rinne said of Jake.
Athletic director Ray Kellar, Jake’s football coach at DHS, said, “Jake is just a pure athlete. He is one of those individuals who responds well to pressure, and usually completes what he sets out to do. I have said it before, but if I was in need of a teammate, co-worker etc., I would take Jake to battle with me every time. He is a battler...”
Jake finished with 24 points in the second round win, Mason Mekeel 17, and Daniel Ballard 16.
“We were concerned about playing on the road,” coach Ballard said. “But the guys did well at making adjustments and boxing out... We made the shots we needed to, and they didn’t.”
It was a different story in Tuesday's semifinal.