AUGUSTA — First Stevo Kruta saved the game with a clutch 3-pointer as the final seconds ticked away.

Then, the 6-foot-2 Temple Academy senior sealed the Class D South quarterfinal victory over Valley with a block as time expired.

Not a bad way to finish out a Saturday morning at the Civic Center.

Kruta finished with nine points, but it was his final deep shot with 29 seconds left that helped No. 4 Temple pull out a thrilling 55-53 victory over No. 5 Valley (5-14).

Dragan Jovanovic, a 6-foot-6 junior, led Temple with 18 points before fouling out with about a minute left in regulation. Marko Ajvaz scored 14 points, 12 coming off 3-pointers in the first quarter.

 

Senior captain Spencer Hunnewell led all scorers with 20 points while Zach Walter had 13 to pace Valley.

“I don’t know what to say,” Temple coach Scott Corey said. “We played until the very end. We kept playing until they told us to go home.”

The Bereans (9-10) will be back here for a regional semifinal against top-seeded Forest Hills at 11:30 a.m., Wednesday.

The Cavaliers led 53-50 with under a minute to play before Kruta buried a 3-pointer from the wing after the Bereans had called a timeout.

“I didn’t feel anything,” he said. “It goes in, it goes in. I was confident. It felt pretty good when I shot it. It looked like it was going to go in, but I was still nervous.”

Added Corey: “We had talked about going inside, then try to go for a steal, but if we didn’t, (then) foul and take our chances. … Stevo decides let’s just tie it now. That’s guts. Sometimes the ball goes in in those situations and sometimes they don’t. Today it was our turn.”

Tied at 53, Temple forced a turnover when Jumpei Sakaguchi stole a pass and went the distance for a fastbreak layup to give it an improbable 55-53 lead with 7 seconds left.

“I was so scared of the last shot. I was nervous and I don’t know why,” Sakaguchi said. “It was so good. I made the last shot. We can play the next game. (I) was so happy.”

But the game wasn’t over — yet.

Valley had a final chance to tie or win in the closing seconds.

Senior guard Walter missed an outside shot but Thomas Bishop pulled down the offensive rebound and went up for a shot at the buzzer — only to see Kruta stuff it.

“It was a crazy game,” Kruta said. “I had to block it because if it went in, we would’ve gone to overtime. And I didn’t want overtime.”

Added Valley coach Mike Staples, whose team had its stretch of eight consecutive regional semifinal appearances snapped: “We called a timeout and set up a play. We got it into Zach’s hands; he’s a senior and was going to take the shot. We got the look but it just didn’t go in. It happens. Thomas is a great rebounder and we got one, but couldn’t get it to go.”

The Cavaliers trailed 16-2 in the first quarter and 24-12 in the second before they stormed back.

Bishop scored 10 points in the final three minutes of the half to help Valley pull within 28-27.

Walter connected on a pair of 3-pointers early in the third to give the Cavaliers a 36-30 lead, their biggest of the game.

“We’ve had a lot of close games with them,” Staples said, whose team lost to Temple in the regional semifinals last season. “Every game we play with them is tight.”

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