After scoring possibly the biggest two points of his high school career, Cactus Shadows senior Cole Caruso couldn’t find the words to express how he felt in that moment.
“I’m speechless, I couldn’t even tell you,” Caruso said. “All the hard work, everything we’ve done, it just came through in the end. It’s awesome.”
Caruso’s buzzer-beating layup in the fourth quarter gave his team the 60-59 victory over Williams Field in its opening-round playoff matchup on March 11. Caruso also led the Falcons with 27 points in the game.
“It’s all a team thing; everything we do,” said senior Connor Benson.
“We practice really hard, and it was all about boxing out tonight and just playing as a team. And Cole, he stepped up in a huge way, but we all just came together.”
Benson was an integral part of the final play that led to Caruso’s layup just before the buzzer. Inbounding the ball with 3.4 seconds remaining in the game, senior Tate Roderick found Benson with a half-court pass, who was able to get the ball to the streaking Caruso.
“My job was to catch it, and (Williams Field senior) Leroy (Williams) was behind me and I just caught it through two people,” Benson said.
“I saw Cole breaking away, so I just threw it over, and luckily he caught it and he just finished the layup. It was big time.”
Cactus Shadows coach Zach Washut added, “Hell of a pass from Tate to half-court, Connor found (Cole) and the back screen was great.
“And Cole did what Cole does, put his head down and went to the front of the rim, and (Williams Field’s) player didn’t step in quick enough to try to take a charge, so (we’re) just thrilled to be moving on.”
Williams Field senior Montez Taylor had 26 points for the Black Hawks, including a game-high six 3-pointers. Washut said he knew Taylor would pose a threat, but that his team was prepared.
“He’s always a stud. We wanted to hedge on him hard and go over the top on screens and force him to shoot contested jumpers or make him get into the paint and shoot over the trees,” Washut said.
“I felt that his field goal percentage in the paint (when) contested was low, so that’s something we wanted to exploit… overall, I thought we did a decent job on him. If we’re going to let one guy score all the points, and nobody else gets anything, we like our odds… so, just a really nice team effort on the defensive end.”
This win comes after the two teams played each other back on Feb. 12, in a 63-60 victory for Williams Field.
“We’ve been training for this, we played them earlier in the year and lost by three, it was a nail-biter,” Caruso said. “We shot .550 from the line, worked on that, worked on getting our offensive boards… hustle, hard work, that’s was what it was, dedication.”
Despite this game’s incredible finish, the Falcons know this is only the first step. Their focus has already shifted to their quarterfinal matchup against Centennial on March 13.
“Onto the next one,” Benson said. “We’ve got a big road ahead of us, and I think we can do it. It’s huge.”