Lance Casteneda had spent much of the game fighting for loose balls and missed shots under the basket, but the 6-foot-2½-inch sophomore didn't hesitate to shoot a 14-foot jumper with the outcome on the line.
Casteneda took the inbounds pass on the left baseline with 29 seconds left and -- without a defender near him -- hit the shot that secured visiting Davis' 55-54 Modesto Metro Conference upset over rival Downey on Wednesday.
"I set a screen on the inbounds, but I'm usually the one left open because the defense is confused," Casteneda said. "If I'm open, it's a good shot."
The shot had a number of impacts: It capped Davis' second-half rally, kept alive the Spartans' (16-8, 7-5) postseason hopes and knocked the No. 2-ranked Knights (18-6, 10-2) into a first-place tie with Modesto (14-8, 10-2).
"Getting to the playoffs is driving us," said Casteneda, who finished with 16 points and 14 rebounds. "We just have to keep winning if we want to get there."
The Spartans' playoff drive appeared stalled in the third quarter when Downey scored eight unanswered points -- including treys by Brett Butler (11 points) and Booker Hinton (17 points) -- to take a 36-26 lead.
Normally, that's about the time Davis would look for guard Jose Blanco, the Stanislaus District's No. 4 scorer with 21.8 points per game, to take charge. But Blanco was smothered by Downey's defense -- he finished with only nine points -- so everyone else contributed.
Cameron Henke's half-court 3-pointer at the end of the third quarter brought Davis to within 41-39, then the teams swapped buckets much of the fourth quarter. Michael White's layup gave Davis a 53-51 lead, but Hinton's 3-pointer put Downey up 54-53.
That set up Casteneda's shot, but it wasn't over. After a Downey miss, Casteneda was fouled and missed the front end of a one-and-one with 2.6 seconds remaining. Hinton's half-court heave fell short at the buzzer.
"I shot the free throw too hard," said Casteneda, who was 8 for 13 from the line and 4 for 6 from the floor.
A month ago, Casteneda was more familiar with the Spartans' bench than the court at the end of the game.
"I didn't play much early, but I spent a lot of time watching the game and working hard in practice," he said. "I knew, if I paid attention, I'd get my chance."