To say that Hugo Hernandez saved the Stanfield Tigers on Saturday might be an understatement.
The Stanfield boys lagged behind their Pilot Rock visitors for three quarters. It looked like the game belonged to the Rockets. But Stanfield’s 5-foot-9 senior guard opened the final quarter with three treys that dug the Tigers out of their rut on the way to a 63-54 Blue Mountain Conference victory.
“He really came in clutch for us,” coach Devin Bailey said of Hernandez. “He’s a great leader. Watching him grow this year has been tremendous. He went from having no confidence, to shooting seven to eight 3s a game.”
Stanfield forked over their lead three times in the first quarter before Pilot Rock managed to keep their distance. Rockets junior forward Payton Thurmond hit four straight points for an 11-point advantage in quarter two, and Pilot Rock took a 38-25 lead into the locker room.
“At first, we gave zero effort,” Bailey said. “Pilot Rock wanted it more. You could see it. At the half, I called them (Stanfield) out on it.”
In the third quarter, Hernandez sunk a 3-pointer to pull his team within eight points of the Rockets, but Pilot Rock still managed to stay ahead by 10 points going into the fourth.
When the clock started counting down those final eight minutes, Hernandez knew something had to be done. He kept the game outside the paint and knocked down two straight 3-pointers to bring the Tigers’ deficit to 49-45.
Junior Rene Sanchez hit a bucket of his own to bring Stanfield within two points of taking over, but Rockets junior guard Logan Weinke scored one at the line in the hopes of avoiding a tie.
Hernandez returned for yet another deep bucket to even the scoreboard. The pressure mounted on Pilot Rock as they failed to sink shots and let Stanfield run away with eight unanswered points in the final four minutes to lock in the surprise win.
“To be honest, we underestimated Pilot Rock,” Hernandez said. “I saw that we were down. I needed to step it up. We just wanted in more at the end. We saw how hard Pilot Rock was playing.”
Hernandez closed the night with 20 points, with all six of his field goals coming from the exterior. Senior Elias Esquivel had a game-high 28 points for the Tigers.
“They say it’s always good to get a win, but it’s frustrating to see a lapse this late in the season,” Bailey said of the sluggish start. “They came in with big heads. It was a heck of fourth quarter.”
Stanfield (7-12, 4-4 BMC) travels to Echo for a nonleague matchup on Tuesday. Pilot Rock (2-17, 1-8) hits the road to Weston-McEwen on Friday.
Nyah Tejeda poured in 17 points, and Kendra Hart 16, to help Stanfield out of a four-game skid with a 59-41 home victory over Pilot Rock on Saturday.
The game tied twice before the Tigers broke away for good. Rockets senior Grace Austin, a 5-foot-11 post, was the tallest player on the court, and gave Stanfield a lot of trouble on the inside.
“They’re a big team,” Stanfield coach Daniel Sharp said of the Rockets. “And they rebound really well, which we’re just OK at. It challenged us.”
Austin, who posted 13 points for the night, hit another basket in quarter two to pull within just two points of Stanfield. A seven-point Tigers streak, including four points from junior Savannah Sharp, helped give Stanfield some breathing room for a 32-21 halftime lead.
“At halftime, we talked about really picking up that third quarter,” Hart said. “That always tends to bite us in the back.”
Hart sunk a 3-pointer with five minutes left to play in the fourth quarter for a 17-point advantage. She scored another field goal with just 0:30 left, and freshman Alexis Shelby grabbed an offensive rebound in the final two seconds to finalize the win.
“Kendra scores a lot, and she passed well tonight,” Sharp said. “That’s something she’s been working on this season. And Nyah got some good looks for us, too.”
The Tigers improved to 3-5 in Blue Mountain Conference play. Senior forward Kaitelyn Evans led the Rockets (7-12, 1-8 BMC) with 18 points.