All the clichés about the fourth time being the charm for Jesuit in the NorCal final after going 0-3 during the season against the Huskies were getting dusted off in the first half of this matchup.
The Marauders came out of the locker room on fire, making eight of their first 11 shots and were up by as much as 17 points at 23-6 early in the second quarter.
A 10-point run later in the second period got Sheldon within striking distance with a 25-16 halftime score. The team’s two main standouts, juniors Dakarai Allen and D’Erryl Williams, then came through in the second half and especially down the stretch.
“I think they shot really well and we didn’t get anything going,” said Sheldon coach Joey Hollings. “I gave them a whiplashing at halftime, then we came out and took control.”
Allen’s basket followed by a steal, foul and two free throws with 1:46 left gave the Huskies their first lead at 57-56. Jesuit did not score again.
Williams shined earlier in the quarter with two baskets and two free throws that made the score 54-53.
“We definitely knew it might be a tough game because the last games were close,” Hollings said. “It could have gone either way for sure.”
Williams tossed in 23 points to lead the Huskies. He also had four steals and six rebounds. Allen had 15 points and six rebounds.
Jesuit (27-7), which was the team that surged over the final minutes when it upset top-seed De La Salle of Concord in the semifinals, had four players in double figures. Three of them – Akachi Okugo, Parker U’u and Kurt Parker – all scored 12 points. Senior Bryce Pressley ended with 10.
With the win, Sheldon (29-5) advanced to its first CIF state championship. It will be a much different scenario for the team, however, next week as it probably will be a big underdog against defending state champion Mater Dei of Santa Ana.
“We’ve got to keep them off the boards and give up no easy shots for their shooter (Kaitin Reinhardt),” Hollings said. “We have the potential to do it. We’ve grinded a lot of these games out and I don’t think we’ve played our best game yet.”
Archbishop Mitty (San Jose) 63, Newark Memorial (Newark) 58
From a rankings standpoint, this was one of the biggest NorCal D2 finals ever since both teams were among the top six overall in the state and that was before No. 4 De La Salle of Concord was upset earlier in the week.
And while Newark Memorial (which was No. 6 in the state) gave a valiant effort in an attempt to overturn a 20-point loss to the Monarchs in December, the Cougars couldn’t close the deal in the fourth quarter.
With the win, Archbishop Mitty (30-3) should move up from No. 5 in the state overall and will get the chance to defend its state title next Saturday against La Costa Canyon of Carlsbad.
“It’s a lot more pressure this year,” said Mitty coach Tim Kennedy. “When you’re winning games and trying to climb a mountain is different. We are getting the best shot of everybody we play now, but it shows the best of our guys, too.”
Newark had a four-point lead at 52-48 midway through the fourth quarter when the Monarchs went on a 12-1 run to take a 60-53 lead. Superstar junior Aaron Gordon scored on a spectacular tip-in with 3:08 left, then made a free throw for a 56-53 lead, but he wasn’t the only Mitty player to make clutch shots. Thomas Peters made a basket to bring the score to 53-52 while Neil Vranicar had two baskets that stretched the lead to 60-53.
For the game, Gordon had 21 points, 15 rebounds and three blocks. Peters contributed 15 points and six rebounds while Vranicar had 14 points and three assists.
Senior guard Casey Norris connected on 3-of-4 shots from 3-point land and led the Cougars with 17 points. The team’s other double-figure scorers were Joey Frenchwood (14) and Sultan Siddig (11).
“We embraced the opportunity and came to win, but just didn’t get it done,” said Newark Memorial coach Craig Ashmore, whose team (28-5) had a win earlier in the season over L.A. City Section champion Taft of Woodland Hills. “It was definitely a journey to see this team losing by 20 (to Mitty) until tonight. We accomplished a lot this year and so have teams from years before.”
Coach Darrell Barbour of the Irish doesn’t want to compare this edition in any way to his 2009 team that won the CIF state title in this division for at least one more week.
“That team finished it off the way I like to finish every season and that’s with a win,” Barbour said. “I hope to get that feeling again.”
Seniors Joshua Fox and Taylor Johns were primarily responsible for giving Barbour and the Irish a chance to win their second state title in four years. Fox had 21 points, 13 rebounds and three blocks. Johns had 15 points, 10 rebounds and a pair of blocks.
Sacred Heart Cathedral (28-5) began the day with what Fox described as a case of “the jitterbugs” and fell behind in the first quarter by as much as 23-10. By halftime, the score was tied 30-30 and a pair of mini-runs in the second half -- one which gave the Irish a 46-40 lead in the third quarter and one that gave them a 53-46 lead in the fourth quarter – were the difference in the outcome.
O’Dowd (26-6), which lost in the NorCal final after winning it the past two seasons, had a chance to tie the score in the last minute. The Dragons were behind 53-51 and appeared to have a rebound, but the ball got knocked loose and a scramble for it on the floor ensued. Tyler Petroni ended up with it for the Irish, passed to Johns, who dunked and the game was basically over.
“We had our chance on that one possession with the ball rolling around and it was kind of a microcosm of the entire game,” said O’Dowd coach Doug Vierra, who announced earlier in the postseason that he would be stepping down prior to next year. “I would have liked to have had one more week, but I am thankful for that (the players) gave me.”
The Dragons had two players reach double figures. Senior Marcus Green had 15 points and eight rebounds. Senior Terrance Daniel, who will play football next year at Oregon, had 14 points and nine rebounds.
Motivated with a chance to make up for last year's 63-57 loss in the state finals to Windward of Los Angeles, the Pride showed why they are No. 2 ranked team in the state with a dominating performance over the Gators led by Jabari Bird's 24 points.
Scoring the game's first 10 points, the Gators were held without a point for five and a half minutes as the Pride opened up a 20-5 lead after the first quarter.
Junior forward Jabari Bird of Salesian put on show for those in attendance, including Washington Huskies’ coach Lorenzo Romar, as he opened up the second quarter with two dunks with the second one coming on an impressive alley-oop on a pass seemed destined for out of bounds. Bird racked up a game-high 24 points.
Cole McConnell led the Gators with 15 points and five rebounds.
"We battled and played our hearts out," said coach Tony Martinelli about the Gators’ first ever appearance in the NorCal Finals. "We were up against the best opponent we have faced all season. With their team speed and discipline, sometimes you get caught watching."
Davion Mize added 11 points while Freddie Tagaloa had eight points and six rebounds.
"It is about as historical as it gets," said Salesian coach Bill Mellis when asked about the school having two teams (along with the girls) headed for the state finals next week. “I think anytime you get this far it is special. Last year we lost in that last game in the state championship. I think that was a bit of a motivating factor. We love our girls and they love us."
St. Joseph Notre Dame (Alameda) 77,
Pinewood (Los Altos Hills) 53
Coach Don Lippi's Pilots entered Saturday as the top-ranked team in all of Division V and earned a chance to defend their state title after a convincing win over Pinewood.
Gemeny Givens scored a game-high 17 points to lead four Pilots who scored at least 15 points. They outscored the Panthers 42-24 in the second half.
In an opening quarter that saw no lead bigger than five points, the Pilots found themselves trailing 22-20 after eight minutes of play.
Stepping up on defense, they allowed just seven second-quarter points to take a 35-29 lead at halftime.
After a Pinewood basket to open the second half, the Pilots went on a 15-2 run to take control as Nick Lacy scored six points during the run while converting a rare four-point play after being fouled on a successful 3-point shot. Lacy finished with 16 points.
Dante Frailoi had a team-high 14 points in the loss for Pinewood while Kevin Sweat had 12 points. Cameron Helvey had eight points and a game-high 16 rebounds.
"I don't think the score was indicative of how this game was," said Pinewood coach Matt Stimson. "This is the best Pinewood team in school history. I know because I was on the second and the third best."
"Last year, after we won the state championship I said to the boys we are going to be even better next year than we were this year," Lippi said. "It was a silly, stupid thing to say. I always believe that what you believe you can do, you can do and if you don't believe you can do it, you are probably not going to do it. Right now, we have a better record than last year's team that won the state championship."