Left Nicky Shapiro from the Crossroads boys basketball team jumps into the air to shoot the basketball at the basket as Aram Arsianiah from the Viewpoint Boys varsity basketball team at Crossroads on Thursday Night January 29th as Crossroads hosted Viewpoint in a Gold Coast League basketball game and lost 77-64 to fall to 2-4 in league play and 9-13 overall

With less than a minute left in the game and the Crossroads boys basketball team locked in a tie with Santa Monica, the ball was in the hands of Nicky Shapiro.

But not for long.

Shapiro launched a 3-pointer from the top of the key that slipped safely through the net, giving the Roadrunners a lead they never relinquished in a landmark victory earlier this season.

It was a pivotal shot, to be sure, but just one of many standout moments in Shapiro’s basketball journey.

“It’s been a big thing throughout my life,” he said. “It’s always kind of been there.”

And it’ll still be there when he leaves for college. Shapiro, a graduating senior at Crossroads, plans to continue his athletic career at Tufts University in Massachusetts.

The 6-foot-4 Shapiro will join a roster that includes three other Southern California products in Wildwood alumnus Everett Dayton, Loyola graduate Thomas Lapham and San Diego native Drew Madsen.

Shapiro will be coached by Bob Sheldon, who has been at the helm of the men’s basketball program for 28 years. The team was 19-5 and scoring 86.6 points per game through 24 games this season.

The Jumbos are part of the New England Small College Athletic Conference and play in Division III, a desired level of competition for Shapiro as he seeks to strike a balance between sports and coursework.

“Basketball had to be secondary to going to a good school,” he said. “I really take academics seriously. I fell in love with the school on the visit, and when basketball became an option, it was clear. It was my first choice pretty much the whole way. It’s awesome the way it worked out.”

Shapiro said he considered a few other small liberal arts colleges and added that he was drawn to Tufts in part because of its proximity to Boston. He doesn’t have a set career in mind yet, but he’s interested in media studies, pop culture, economics and writing.

The son of a big basketball fan, Shapiro grew up playing the sport at Cheviot Hills Recreation Center. He graduated from Castle Heights Elementary School and attended Palms Middle School for one year before enrolling at Crossroads in 7th grade.

Shapiro has worked on the student newspaper’s staff since his sophomore year, and he’s also been active in campus clubs while serving as an ambassador for the Santa Monica private school.

Basketball, of course, has played a big role in his high school life. He recalled hitting five 3-pointers two years ago in the Roadrunners’ game against Brentwood, whose roster at the time included current Arizona State guard Tra Holder. Last season, Crossroads made the CIF Southern Section quarterfinals in Division 5AA.

Shapiro said he’ll need to improve his defensive skills to succeed at the college level. He added that he watched Tufts play in December when the team was in Southern California and immediately noticed the speed of the game.

It’ll take some time for Shapiro to adjust to living away from his family and develop relationships with his new teammates, but he said he’s looking forward to the opportunity. And, of course, he’ll still have basketball.

jeff@www.smdp.com