In the final moments of Estancia High’s Jan. 24 nail-biter with the Santa Rosa Lions, and the score knotted at 44, Drayton Oberg sent the ball to Josh Thomas in the paint.

With 14.4 seconds left on the clock, Thomas grabbed the ball and eyed the basket as a quartet of Lions charged toward him.

Thomas thrust the ball toward the hoop and watched as it bounced on one side of the rim and then the other before plunging through the net, lifting the Bears to a 46-44 home victory.

“I was just hoping I would make it,” Thomas said. “It’s exciting, you know, us and Santa Rosa always get after it, it’s a big-time rivalry—it was really a good game for us to win.”

The Bears are the first Class 2A team to beat Santa Rosa (12-4) this season.

Estancia’s Josh Thomas tossing a pass to Brian Walker.

The contest started with Oberg grabbing the opening tipoff and nailing a layup in the game’s first 3 seconds.

Both teams swapped leads several times before ending the opening stanza with the score tied 12-12.

The score remained close in the second quarter before Estancia (12-3) ended the frame on a 5-0 run that was capped by Cruz Moreno’s buzzer-beating 3-pointer to boost the Bears to a 26-22 halftime advantage.

Thomas and Moreno shared game-high scoring with 12 points each. Oberg and Brian Walker each chipped in 8 points.

The Bears never trailed in the second half, but Santa Rosa refused to go away quietly.

Estancia built a 7-point lead in the third quarter, but the Lions trimmed it to 2 points by the end of the frame.

Midway through the fourth, the Bears pushed ahead by 8 points, but the Lions went on a 10-2 run to scratch and claw their way to a 42-42 dogfight with 1:37 remaining.

Garrett Noblitt sank a pair of free throws to push the Bears ahead 44-42 with 1:13 to go.

Santa Rosa responded with a pair of free throws to tie it up with :53 left.

Estancia’s Josh Thomas setting up for the game-winning shot.

During a timeout with under 30 seconds remaining, Bears head coach Daniel Pierce made it clear to his players what they needed to do.

“I told them we’ve gotta take the last shot—we cannot give Santa Rosa another shot at the hoop,” Pierce said. “I told them to be patient and get the best look possible.”

His players listened.

The Bears inbounded the ball and passed it around the perimeter of the 3-point arc—burning enough time off the clock to get one last heave.

Oberg got the ball at the top of the arc, and with two Lions covering him, he sent a bounce pass to Thomas near the base line on the right side of the basket. “We were just trying to find some easy bucket for the last shot,” Thomas said. “They were double-teaming Dray and I just cut right to the basket.”

The Bears followed their victory over Santa Rosa with a 77-48 win on the road Jan. 26 at Hatch Valley. Estancia played Jan. 28 at Albuquerque charter school, Mission Achievement and Success.