BERKELEY, Calif. —
Cal men's basketball coach Mike Montgomery might be pondering the one that got away following Salesian's (Richmond)
47-43 win over De La Salle (Concord)
in the premier game of the Martin Luther King Classic at Haas Pavilion on Monday.
And we're not even talking about Arizona-signee Elliott Pitts
, who scored a game-high 21 points for De La Salle. Mario Dunn
, a lightning rod 6-foot point guard headed to Montana, scored 12 of his team-high 15 points in the fourth quarter when Northern California's top-ranked team
trailed by nine and rattled off 13 straight points to earn the win.
Dunn opened the spurt with a 3-pointer, added a steal and coast-to-coast driving lay-up, and finished it off with two free throws to go up 45-41.
After a layup from impressive 6-3 De La Salle freshman
, Dunn zipped a nice pass to Dante Robinson
for the final bucket with 5.4 seconds to play to seal it.
Dunn energized a Salesian squad (16-3) which seemed caught in De La Salle's defensive vice grip that had five-star Cal-signee Jabari Bird
Bird (10 points) hit a 3-pointer from the top of the key to break a 41-41 tie and give Salesian its first lead of the second half. But other than a spectacular alley-oop dunk off a feed from Jermaine Edmonds Jr.
in the first quarter, Bird was relatively quiet.
He wasn't surprised Dunn brought the Pride back.
"Personally I think Mario is the toughest player in the country," Bird said. "I tried to get the (Cal) coaches to check him out, but they said he was too small."
That's what a lot of people have said of the four-year starter. Dunn said he wasn't trying to prove anything to Montgomery, who sat courtside for at least two MLK Classic games, or any of the Cal coaches.
"I was just trying to win a game," he said. "I'm happy where I'm going (Montana). It's a good fit for me."
He's been a perfect fit for Salesian, where he's helped win two Northern California titles and a state crown last season.
"What Mario did tonight is nothing new," Salesian coach Bill Mellis said. "He's been making those kind of plays, bringing us back and sparking us for four years and we needed it ... Frankly, there was a spell there I thought it was probably over. I didn't think we'd give up, but I thought it definitely didn't look good."
That's because De La Salle (14-3), ranked eighth in Northern California, got it rolling behind its defense and the 6-5 Pitts, who drilled three second-half 3-pointers to go along with three Princeton-style backdoor cuts and layups.
Dunn eventually slowed him down in the final 4:30 after his layup made it 41-32 De La Salle. That's when the Pride went on their run.
This was the first meeting between the two Bay Area powers in well over 20 years.
"I've played with (Pitts) in the summer, but I have a new appreciation for how good he is," Dunn said. "He's really good."
Bird said he was excited about playing at his future college gym.
"I wasn't all that excited how I played," Bird said. "I wish I could have played better in front of everyone. But I'm just so glad we got the win."