Jincho Rivera is quickly making a name for himself at St. Joseph High School.

In his first season with the Knights, the Puerto Rico native made the biggest play of the year.

After St. Joseph allowed a 14-point lead to slip away in the fourth quarter and Bakersfield Liberty to tie the game at 77, Rivera hit the game-winning shot with 3.5 seconds left to lift the Knights to a 79-77 win over the Patriots. 

St. Joseph scored its first-ever CIF Central Section Division I playoff victory after moving over from the Southern Section this year.

Liberty star Isaiah Hill's final 3-point attempt bounced off the rim as time expired to allow Rivera's shot to stand as the game-winner.

Rivera said he wasn't fazed by the big moment.

"No, I don't get nervous," Rivera said a few minutes after the Knights and their fans stormed the court.

St. Joseph (23-7) advances to play at No. 2 seed Fresno Bullard (24-4) Friday night. It'll be a Knights-vs.-Knights matchup and, coincidentally, St. Joseph will play the same school that it was upset by in the CIF Central Section football playoffs.

Bullard defeated 15th-seeded Clovis 78-27 in its first-round win. 

At St. Joseph Wednesday night, it looked like the Knights wouldn't need last-second heroics. Their lead ballooned to 57-43 in the second half. Then it was 59-45. Angel Ortiz then sank a buzzer-beating 3-pointer to give St. Joseph a 64-50 edge after three quarters. 

But the Patriots rallied. Hill finished with 30 points, 14 of which came in the fourth quarter. Hill, a Tulsa commit, drained a 3-pointer over tight defense from Chase Artopoeus with 45 seconds left to the game at 77.

Ortiz then couldn't convert a difficult layup try on the next possession for the Knights and St. Joseph fouled a Liberty player on the rebound, sending the Patriots to the line for two foul shots with 24 seconds remaining.

St. Joseph's student section came to life, with a burst of noise drowning out the free throw taker. Both foul shots were missed by Liberty, keeping the score at 77-all and giving the Knights new life.

Liberty then called off its press and St. Joseph coach Tom Mott had Artopoeus, a quarterback on the SJHS football team and certainly not the Knights' primary ball-handler, bring the ball up the court.

Artopoeus ran the play, but the Knights couldn't get a clean look as Steven Vasquez was left holding the ball on the wing at the 3-point line. Vasquez pivoted, then tossed the ball to a wide-open Rivera near the free throw line.

Rivera calmly took a sideways dribble, then jumped, squared his shoulders and knocked down an eight-foot jump shot. 

"We had a good idea that they were going to be put their best defender, Isaiah Hill, on Angel, so we tried to run him as a decoy," St. Joseph coach Tom Mott said. "So we had Chase, he's a quarterback, and we knew he would make a good decision. And Jincho was in the right place at the right time and made a huge bucket for us."

The Patriots called timeout and set up a play for Hill, who took the inbound pass, dribbled down the right sideline, got around Vasquez and Artopoeus and got a clean look from about 24 feet. The shot clanked off the back of the rim and the Knights rejoiced.

Ortiz, a sophomore, led the Knights with 25 points. Kainoa Keuma fouled out after scoring 23 points. Keuma fouled out on a 3-point attempt by Hill, who knocked down all three free throws to make the score 77-74. Hill then hit the game-tying three before Rivera's game-winner. 

"You never like to have buzzer-beaters, it's great for the fans but it gives us coaches grey hairs," Mott said. "The guys found a way. In the playoffs, it doesn't matter if you win by 50, or if you win by two."

Dakota Ochoa added 22 points for the Patriots, who knocked down 11 3-pointers as a team. 

Isaiah Tell got a rare start for the Knights and had eight points. EJ Brinez finished with 10 and had two free throws in the fourth quarter that helped the Knights pull out the win. Rivera had four points, but his final two were the biggest of the game.

Arroyo Grande 88, Buchanan 37

In first-round Division I boys basketball action, No. 3 Arroyo Grande routed No. 14 Clovis Buchanan 88-37, No. 4 Clovis North trounced No. 13 Atascadero 102-58 and No. 8 Fresno Edison defeated No. 9 Mission Prep 60-52.

In Division 3, No. 5 Bakersfield Garces beat No. 12 Templeton 66-29, and No. 6 Bakersfield North downed No. 11 Morro Bay 70-55.

San Luis Obispo was the only Central Coast team that broke through in the Division 1 girls soccer playoffs. The No. 3 Tigers beat No. 14 Stockdale 5-0.

In other Division 1 first-round games, No. 1 Clovis North blanked No. 16 St. Joseph 9-0, No. 8 Visalia Redwood edged No. 9 Arroyo Grande 2-1, No. 5 Clovis West defeated No. 12 Paso Robles 2-0 and No. 7 Clovis edged No. 10 Atascadero 1-0.

Seventh-seeded Bakersfield Garces edged No. 10 Nipomo 2-1 in Division 2.

Fifth seed Arroyo Grande blanked No. 12 Bakersfield Golden Valley 3-0 in the first round of the Division 1 boys soccer playoffs. In other first-round boys soccer games, No. 4 Dinuba edged No. 13 Atascadero 2-1 in Division 2, and No. 3 Tulare Union beat No. 14 Morro Bay 3-0 in Division 3.

Men's basketball

Hancock 87, Ventura 69

VENTURA - After taking a stinging loss at the hands of the Pirates in a conference opener, the Bulldogs (20-5, 5-2) tagged the Pirates (15-10, 6-1) with their first Western State Conference North Division loss.

Diego Lucas led balanced Hancock scoring with 16 points. Mike Mensah put in 14 points, Glenn Jordan added 13, and Spirit Ricks, J.T. Riddick and Trenton Mitchell all had 10.

Women's basketball

Ventura 56, Hancock 42

VENTURA - The Pirates (21-8, 6-1) defeated the Bulldogs (10-12, 2-5) in a WSC North game.

Tawny Lino and Danielle Morgan led Hancock with 14 and 12 points respectively.

Joe Bailey is the sports editor at Lee Central Coast Newspapers. Contact him with tips and story ideas at jbailey@leecentralcoastnews.com or (805) 739-2239. Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/jbaileysmsports

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