PASCO -- What a way for the Pasco-Chiawana basketball rivalry to begin.
"Once I walked into the girls game, I was blown away by how big the crowd was," said Chiawana senior Miquiyah Zamora. "It was a great feeling. You'd make a shot, and you couldn't hear yourself think."
The boys game electrified the capacity crowd in the Chiawana gym and wasn't decided until the final buzzer. Steven Ponce's apparent game-winner for Pasco was ruled to have come after the horn sounded, and the Riverhawks escaped with a 68-67 victory.
"What a way to go down if you're going to go down," said first-year Bulldogs coach Winton Lytle, whose team remained winless at 0-14. "Of course, I'm going to tell you it went in before the buzzer. Gosh, that's just a heartbreaker. But it was a heck of a game on both sides."
Sign Up and Save
Get six months of free digital access to the Tri-City Herald
Ponce's steal on the left wing with 30 seconds left gave Pasco the final possession of a seesaw game that neither team led by more than five after the first quarter.
After a timeout, the Bulldogs set up a play for Jeramie Streicher, who scored a game-high 23 points. But Zamora denied the pass, and the ball ended up in Jordan Le Mieux's hands with the clock winding down.
Le Mieux drove the right wing and threw up an off-balance 14-footer with 3 seconds left. The shot went long and finally landed in Ponce's hands, and he banked in a 4-footer as the Pasco side of the gym erupted.
But referee Vince Zorich quickly and emphatically waved off the basket, and as the Riverhawks bench finally saw him, the players rushed the court and were greeted by their sizeable student contingent.
"It was so loud, no one could hear (the buzzer)," said Jordan Downing, who led Chiawana with 21 points. "I could tell, though. The shot was way late. But I can understand why Pasco was so hyped up."
Pasco appeared to seize control when Streicher buried back-to-back 3-pointers -- the first at least 6 feet behind the arc -- to put the Bulldogs ahead 66-61 with 2 1/2 minutes left.
But Coleman Knight leaked out after a missed shot and laid in a long feed from Stephen Walter for Chiawana, and then Justin Smith stole the ball at midcourt and pulled up for a deep 3 in front of the Riverhawks bench to tie the game with 1:16 left.
"That 3 just lifted this team up," Downing said.
After Pasco missed twice, Walter fed Downing in the lane for a short shot with 42 seconds left to put Chiawana up 68-66.
Le Mieux hit a foul shot with 37.4 seconds left to set up the final sequence.
"Rivalry games like this, crazy things happen," Downing said. "Nothing goes like you practice it. Coach (Chad) Herron talks about that all the time, but I didn't understand it until tonight."
Zamora added 19 points and seven assists for Chiawana, which snapped a four-game losing streak.
Ponce and Mike Elizondo scored 10 apiece for Pasco, which had 23 points off 28 offensive rebounds.
Jordan Downing 21, Knight 2, Smith 9, Walter 5, Zamora 19, Graff 6, DeWitt 2, Lopaya 4. Totals 25-53 13-20 68.
Jeramie Streicher 23, Wilborn 6, Ponce 10, Wright-Lamb 9, Le Mieux 5, Search 4, Mendoza, Elizondo 10. Totals 25-76 7-15 67.
Chiawana 19 14 17 18 -- 68
Pasco 18 13 15 21 -- 67
Highlights -- Chi 5x11 3pt, Pas 10x27; Chi 38 rbs, Pas 48; Chi 14 TOs, Pas 12; Downing 8 rbs; Miquiyah Zamora 6 rbs, 7 asts, 3 stls, 2 blks; Justin Smith 6 rbs; Brandon Search 9 rbs; Mike Elizondo 8 rbs, 3 asts; Streicher 5 rbs, 4 asts.