By SHEL SEGAL
MONTEBELLO – Roman Flores hit a 3-pointer as time expired as the Montebello boys basketball team fought off a gritty squad from Keppel, winning 49-46 at home on Tuesday night in an Almont League game.Flores said he knew he was going to hit the buzzer beater.
“I’m going to make this shot!” he said, describing what was going through his head as he shot the ball.
His coach, Felix Angulo, said Flores has surprisingly come up big all year.
“That was actually the only shot he made all day,” Angulo said of Flores. “A couple of weeks ago he hit a big one to tie it. He’s a big-time shooter for us. He’s Mr. Clutch.”
Angulo added he expected another dogfight with Keppel, and he got one.
“Keppel’s tough,” he said. “Last time we played them (a 44-42 loss on Jan. 13) there was 0:01.1 seconds and it came down to free throws to win it. Every time we play these guys it’s always a tough game. Their kids are tough, they’re young. (Keppel coach Hung Duong) does a great job with them.”
And as Montebello improved to 8-15 overall, Angulo said the Oilers are better than what their record shows.
“We’re 2-5 in (Almont) League, but we could easily be 5-2,” he said. “We’ve played tough. We could be in every game. That’s a testament to our kids.”
Montebello got the ball back with six seconds to play when Daniel Pena stole the ball from Keppel’s Laird Anderson, Jr. After calling a time out, the Oilers moved the ball quickly up court and got it into Flores’ hands.
Keppel (12-11, 3-4 AL) was led by Michael Granados, who scored 14 points. Nick Fong added eight points for the Aztecs.
Duong said despite taking the loss, he was really impressed by the way the Aztecs were outplayed by the Oilers.
“I got to give Montebello credit,” he said. “They played hard. It was their senior night and they came to play. We knew it was going to be a really tough task for us to come in here and get a W. And that’s what happened at the end. (Montebello) executed and we didn’t.”
He added what his team is really lacking is just the consistency in how it plays.
“That’s really what we’ve been struggling with all year,” Duong said. “We’re up and down. It’s like a roller coaster ride. It’s tough. It’s given because there is a lot of youth. There is a frustration part about it. We hope they grow up by now because it’s almost the end of the year. And they haven’t and that’s what kind of killed us at the end.”
But Duong said as this is a rebuilding year, the Aztecs should really be strong in another season or two.
“We’re going to be solid next year because we got a lot of kids back,” he said. “They got a lot of experience this year. As they go through more and more games, they get better and better. I thought we made a tremendous improvement since the summer. Another year with them, I think we’re going to get better.”