SACRAMENTO -- For a time, it looked as if Alemany might run out of players before the final seconds ticked off in the CIF State Division III boys' basketball final on Saturday.
Two players fouled out, but Alemany coach Tray Meeks said he wasn’t concerned about how many players had to sit out the final minutes.
The first to go was Jerico Richardson. Next was Bear Henderson. But Alemany persevered, as Meeks said, and won its first CIF state championship, 71-67, over Sacred Heart Cathedral at Power Balance Pavilion.
“We hate to lose them, don’t get me wrong,” Meeks said. “We have enough talent on this team to persevere. It shows the heart of this team.”
Down eight points at halftime, Alemany (33-4) rallied in the second half to take a four-point lead in the third quarter. The Warriors outscored Sacred Heart Cathedral, 22-11, and went on a 12-2 run in the third quarter.
“We lost to a very good team, a team that didn’t quit,” Sacred Heart Cathedral coach Darrell Barbour said. “The third quarter was critical. The first half, I thought we were the better team. That’s basketball. You have two halves to play."
Alemany took the lead on a dunk by Marqueze Coleman with 2:30 in the third quarter. It gave Alemany a 50-49 lead, erasing the eight-point, halftime deficit, and came in the middle of the 12-2 run to end the third quarter.
Coleman scored a game-high 27 points and had nine rebounds. He was 9-for-17 from the field and 7-for-9 from the free-throw line.
Alemany point guard Max Guercy hit a 3-pointer during the third-quarter rally. He finished with 19 points and eight rebounds.
“It was a tale of two halves,” Meeks said. “These guys just played their hearts out the rest of the way. We played how we wanted to play.”
Both teams got into foul trouble in the first half. Coleman and Henderson were hit with technical fouls in the second quarter. Sacred Heart Cathedral’s Taylor Johns, who scored 13 points and had 19 rebounds, also drew a technical in the first half.
When Coleman got his third foul in the second quarter and had to go to the bench, he said he was devastated.
“I had faith in my guys,” Coleman said.
The second half was a different story though. Alemany had a four-point lead, 55-51, entering the fourth quarter.
Sacred Heart (28-6) tied the score, 65-65, when Henderson fouled out. Josh Fox hit a pair of free throws to knot the score.
Up by two with less than a minute to play, Coleman was fouled and headed to the free-throw line to ice the game.
Looking up at the basket and seeing his classmates and fans in the stands, Coleman said he saw "joy."
He made both free throws to give his team a four-point lead with nine seconds left in the game.
He said he knew, “If I make two, the game is over.”
Alemany won its first CIF state championship in the 57-year history of the school.