LA CANADA FLINTRIDGE -- Matt Faber picked perhaps the most opportune time to have one the best games of his high school basketball career.
The senior scored 13 points and added 15 rebounds for host La Canada in Thursday night's Southern California Regional playoff game against Encino Crespi. And ultimately, his efforts proved to be just enough to guide the Spartans to a 43-42 Division III second-round victory over the Celts, who made things interesting from start to finish.
“Normally, I'm the fourth option on this team,'' Faber said. “All that I wanted to do tonight was step up for my team. I knew I needed to pick up the slack in a big game like this. We needed a lift. There was no way I was going to let everyone down.''
With less than five seconds left in the fourth quarter, the Celts (24-9) called a timeout and designed a play for Matt Mournier. The senior guard got the ball too. Unfortunately, his 3-pointer was off the mark as the final buzzer sounded.
“Matt got a pretty good look at the basket, but the shot did not fall, it was a tough way to lose a close game,'' Crespi coach Russell White said.
Faber delivered one of the more memorable highlights for the top-seeded Spartans (29-3), at the most important of times, of course.
He drove along the baseline with 6:02 remaining in the fourth quarter, elevated, and dunked over Chris Connelly to give La Canada a three-point lead.
“When I went up for that dunk, I saw a couple of people in my way,'' Faber said. “Then, things were in tunnel vision, I wasn't going to be denied. I was getting to the basket, it didn't matter who or what was in my way, I was dunking the ball.
Faber had plenty of help along the way. Teammate Mike McGlashan gave the Spartans a 37-32 lead with 4:20 left in the fourth quarter.
Kenny Stenhouse answered, he would not let the Celts go down without an inspired fight. He scored six straight points down the stretch to cut the deficit to a point with 1:21 remaining. Unfortunately, Crespi would get no closer.
“We knew Crespi was good team, they gave us everything we could handle,'' said McGlashan, who finished with a game-high 18 points.
Mournier opened up the second half with a three-pointer to give the Celts a 38-23 lead. Things were heading in the right direction, until he picked up his third foul with 3:52 left in the third quarter and was forced to the bench for a while.
La Canada had a couple of players in foul trouble as Mason Holle and Faber both picked up their third fouls minutes into the second half.
Faber stayed in the game though and ended up scoring back-to-back baskets to give the Spartans a 33-32 lead at the end of the third quarter.
With McGlashan sidelined with two fouls in the second quarter, La Canada turned to Faber. He responded, of course, and scored two layups to help the Spartans take a 16-9 advantage with 5:40 left in the first half of play.
“Matt was huge for us tonight, we couldn't have won without him,'' McGlashan said. “He was on top of his game, he was key for us.''
The Celts answered as Christian Johnson came off the bench and scored five straight points and Crespi took a 25-23 lead at the break.
The Celts did well early on in the game as Stenhouse scored on a layup and made two free-throws to cut the lead to 7-6 with 2:20 left in the first quarter.
McGlashan got hot shortly thereafter. He scored seven consecutive points, converting a layup, hitting a three-pointer and scoring on another layup to extend the advantage to six points with 1:45 remaining on the first quarter clock.
Mournier finished with 11 points. Stenhouse added 13 points for the Celts.
Sean Ceglinsky covers preps for ESPNLosAngeles.com. Follow him on Twitter.