Camille Roberts lay flat on her back, eyes closed, on the Modesto Junior College Pirates' logo near the MJC bench.
Seconds before, the former Turlock High guard barely missed a contested game-winning triple. Her shot, the tail end of a marvelous coast-to-coast inbounds play with 1.5 seconds left Thursday night, kissed the glass and grazed the rim.
Roberts' teammates lifted Roberts to her feet as the MJC fans rose in support. The Pirates sent a shockwave down the backs of the Bear Cubs ranked fourth in California but were beaten on Sophomore Night, 58-56.
"I thought it was going in total slow motion," said Roberts, who already had strafed Santa Rosa for four 3s en route to 16 points. "If it happens again, it's definitely going in."
The play, and the game for that matter, typified MJC's starcrossed season. The injury-plagued Pirates (17-9, 6-6 Big 8 Conference), full strength for exactly one game a 50-point walkover of Reedley did not lead all night.
Yet they nearly led at the perfect time. The Pirates, following a made free throw by Stephanie Sack, launched a play they call T.D. (for touchdown), featuring reserve Shiloh Soto.
Soto, the team's best long passer, strong-armed a 65-foot strike down the middle to 6-foot-2 Jamie Beck (11 points), who quickly tossed to the right to Roberts in the deep wing.
"They executed it perfectly," MJC coach Mike Girardi said. "Camille squared up and got it off."
Modesto was pummeled by Santa Rosa, the Big 8 Conference's resident powerhouse and a state champion two years ago, 59-35 on Jan. 22. That's why Lacey Campbell, the coach of the Bear Cubs (23-5, 11-1), exhaled with a weary smile.
"We got beat on that last play lucky it didn't go in," she said. "Modesto is very tough at home. They'll be a problem for someone in the playoffs. They'll be scary."
Modesto, hustling and scraping all night, refused to submit, even after Santa Rosa poured in three consecutive triples to lead 52-43 with 5:37 left.
Beck, already the Pirates' career leading shotblocker (160 with two regular-season games to go), hit a 15-footer, followed by a Roberts' 15-footer and a baseline drive by Jode Johnson (12 points).
A pair of free throws by Johnson drew the Pirates even 54-54 with 1:42 to go.
Madelyn Birchall, Modesto's hardworking post (10 points), connected on 6 of 8 free throws. In fact, the Pirates' 16-of-18 from the line kept them close.
Santa Rosa countered with Whitney Edens' 17 points.
If anything, the Pirates' near-upset should boost Modesto's confidence with two road games to go. They're a lock for the NorCal playoffs and still could earn a home berth in the first round with two more wins.
Which only further emphasizes how close they came with Roberts' last-ditch drama.
SANTA ROSA 81, MODESTO JC 76 The Pirates (11-15, 3-9) closed their home schedule with a scrappy effort in defeat. The roster has been shrunk to only eight players through attrition as coach Paul Brogan struggles to find a game-long consistent effort.
Modesto responded against first-place Santa Rosa (23-5, 10-1), ranked fifth in California, and led by a point until the Bear Cubs pulled away in the final nine minutes.
Earlier, MJC built a 54-50 lead at the 12-minute mark. The Pirates were overwhelmed by Santa Rosa 92-74 last month. Fifth straight loss aside, Modesto took some solace against the Big 8's best team.
"We played well tonight. We had good ball movement on offense," Brogan said. "As a coach, you can live with that."
Modesto poured in 14 3s, six by 6-7 wing Tashawn Mabry who saved one of his best performances at MJC for his last.
Mabry, the heralded high school star from North Carolina, spent three sometimes difficult years here he ruptured his Achilles tendon during the 2011 MJC Tournament but left MJC Gym with a smile.
"It's been a long journey here. I wanted to give Modesto something to remember me by," said Mabry, who's being recruited by Maryland, among others. "Everything happens for a reason. This season humbled me and matured me on and off the court."
Mabry's pull-up triple, off a feed from Alex Rivera, pulled Modesto to within 71-69 with 3:10 left.
Santa Rosa guard Bobby Sharp answered with a flurry of free throws (9 of 11 overall), however, and finished with 23 points. Point guard Max Fujii burned MJC for 17 points on four 3-pointers.
Modesto sabotaged itself by netting only two of 10 free throws, a frigid one of eight in the second half.
MJC forward Brenden Evans operated efficiently against taller defenders and had 20 points.
Bee staff writer Ron Agostini can be reached at (209) 578-2302 or email@example.com.