On Tuesday night St. Augustine High School beat Foothills Christian High School 72-69 in the semi-finals of the CIF San Diego Section Open Division basketball playoffs.
That is the quick and easy way of saying it but the end of the game was neither quick nor easy. It was one of the wildest finishes that California prep basketball has seen in quite some time and now a head coach might be gone for the biggest game of his team’s season.
With nine seconds to play the Saints had a 68-66 lead when Knights senior Kyle Baldado hit a 3-pointer to put Foothills Christian up 69-68. But on the other end of the floor Baldado fouled Saints senior Jack Peterson with 1.9 seconds left.
Peterson made the first free throw but missed the second and when Foothills corralled the rebound Baldado called a time out. However, the Knights were out of time outs, triggering an automatic technical foul (just like what happened in the 1993 NCAA Championship game when Chris Webber called a time out for Michigan, who was coached by Steve Fisher at the time).
That’s when FCHS Head Coach Brad Leaf got mad.
Leaf vehemently protested the call, unaware that one of his players had signaled for a time out. Leaf was assessed a pair of technical fouls and ejected from the game.
Instead of having two foul shots, Leaf’s double-technical gave the Saints six free throws to shoot, which turned out to be a big deal. St. Augustine guard Otto Taylor missed the first two free throws before making three of the next four and giving the Saints a 72-69 win.
The end of an exciting, close game unfolded in an ugly fashion.
Still the CIF had to get involved.
“I understand emotion is part of it but we expect coaches to keep their cool,” said CIF San Diego Section Commissioner Jerry Schniepp. “It’s unfortunate because their season is not over.”
Whenever a coach is ejected CIF policy is that coach gets an automatic one game suspension. If it’s determined to be gross conduct the official can recommend a three or six game ban. The CIF looked at the matter and determined it is only a one-game suspension.
Foothills Christian appealed but the ban was upheld. Knights Athletics Director Tim Griggs told NBC 7 SportsWrap that Coach Leaf is taking responsibility for his actions.
"We spoke right after the game," said Griggs. "He knew he blew it. He told the team 'Hey, this is my fault.' He put it on his shoulders."
The Knights will play their first state playoff game in either Division 1 or Division 2 on Wednesday, March 8. If they advance Leaf will be allowed back on the sidelines. Assistant Coach Thomas Lowery will take over for Leaf in the next game.
The website BallerVisions recorded the game. You can see it all on their YouTube channel here:
Scroll to about the 11:44 mark to see the end of the game.