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SACRAMENTO, Calif. -
These ugly basketball ducklings have officially turned into beautiful hooping swans.
De La Salle coach Frank Allocco, who has won three state titles with rather average looking talent by elite California standards, is bringing perhaps his most homely but most remarkable bunch to the state's biggest show following an unlikely win over the prince's of Bay Area basketball. De La Salle (Concord)
(27-5) used an 18-0 run starting late in the third quarter when top-seed and picturesque Castro Valley
(30-2) had the game seemingly in control to key a 49-42 CIF Northern California Division I championship victory at Power Balance Pavilion on Saturday night.
Fittingly the team's unlikely MVP Travis Pacos led the charge with 13 of his team-high 19 points during the run to stun a team that it had beat the Spartans soundly 60-42 in the North Coast Section title game two weeks previous.
"It hasn't even sunk in yet," Pacos said. "I can't think about how good this feels because we still have one game to go."
And if the Spartans can beat nationally-ranked Mater Dei, a 76-64 winner over Centennial, this tale won't make it into fairytale books. It's too implausible.
Many considered this Allocco's least talented team since he took over De La Salle in 1997. And Pacos, a slow, vertically-challenged 6-foot-2 forward who scored less than 20 points last season, is the team's poster boy.
After his bucket at the buzzer led a 7-0 run to close the third and cut Castro Valley's deficit to 29-28, Pacos scored 10 of his team's 12-point run to start the fourth quarter to run De La Salle's to 39-29 with 3:49 left in the game.
Castro Valley, with at least three Division I player including Marquette-bound Juan Anderson (game-high 20 points), fought back and cut the lead down to 45-41 with 1:34 to play.
But Amadi Udenyi (11 points, five assists) and Eliot Pitts (nine points) converted back-to-back one-and-ones to clinch the improbable win.
"I felt pretty good all along because we weren't playing that well but hanging around," said Allocco, who has more than 500 wins. "We were in such good condition also unlike last year at this time. We were fresh."
And it showed, especially on the defensive end. The Spartans challenged every pass and every possession. They forced 16 turnovers and actually outrebounded the longer Trojans, 32-29.
"Castro Valley is a great team," Allocco said. "A great team. If we played them 10 times again, I don't know if we'd beat them again."
Chris Read added 11 points for Castro Valley, but high-scoring point guard Roderick Bobbitt was held to nine points on 3 of 12 shooting, including 1 of 7 on 3-pointers. Castro Valley was 1-for-12 on 3-pointers.
Pacos, who averages nearly 17 points per game, said one of the keys to the turnaround in scores from the last Castro Valley game was a week off.
"The last time we played them we were coming off an emotional win over San Ramon (Valley)," he said. "We had a whole week to rest up and prepare for this one."
He, like the rest of the Spartans, had very little going offensive for nearly three quarters. He had just five points with 2:05 left in the third.
"I just needed to be patient and let the game come to me," Pacos said. "We all did. We're used to be down and staying poised."
Division IIArchbishop Mitty (San Jose) 67, Woodcreek (Roseville) 44
Players from Mitty said they didn't have a vendetta, but they sure played like it.
The top-seeded Monarchs (31-2), who were eliminated at home last season by Woodcreek, played perhaps their best game of the year with a decisive victory.
Kyle Toth drilled four 3-pointers and scored 20 points, Aaron Gordon had 10 points and 17 rebounds and Colin Wan added 10 points as Mitty dominated from start to finish. An 18-0 run starting in the third quarter didn't hurt.
"In spurts it was awfully good," Mitty coach Tim Kennedy said. "But it wasn't perfect and we still have one game to play."
Woodcreek, which won last year's game 91-83, converged hard on the 6-foot-7 Gordon low and he worked the ball outside where Toth and Neil Vranicar (three 3-pointers) made the Timberwolves pay. They combined for seven 3-pointers, opening up the interior.
The Monarchs made 26 of 52 shots (50 percent), while Woodcreek was just 18 of 49, including 1 of 17 on 3-pointers.
"We weren't expecting them to shoot like that," Woodcreek coach Paul Hayes said of Mitty. "I thought they were very physical too. They really got after it."
Devin Murphy, who led Woodcreek with 13 points, said he thought the Monarchs played with a chip on their shoulders.
"I think they played with the mindset to get us back," Murphy said. "They played very well."
Said Gordon: "We just played to win and win this game."
They had a little fun along the way. On a 3-on-1 fastbreak, Toth sent a pass off the backboard to the high-flying Gordon, who sent down a reverse dunk.
"(Gordon) said something to me on the way down but I don't know what," Toth said.
Said Gordon: "I just told him I was there."
John Peska had 12 points for Woodcreek, which was outscored 20-6 in the third. Division IIIBishop O'Dowd (Oakland) 50, El Cerrito 32
Brandon Ashley accepted his Northern California championship ribbon and just shook his head. As if he didn't quite deserve it.
The 6-foot-8 forward, considered one of the top juniors in the country, had modest numbers - nine points and eight rebounds, but he played only 20 minutes due to foul trouble.
Ashley clearly didn't have one of his better games and either did the Dragons (25-6) which is rather scary considering they won by 18 points. They shot just 40 percent from the field and made 12 of 26 free throws (46 percent) while winning their record seventh NorCal title.
A few hours later, St. Joseph Notre Dame won its seventh as well.
The defending champions, who were expected all season to get back to the state title game, reached their destination. But as everyone on their team agreed: "This wasn't our best," Ashley said. "But we have one more week to do it."
In terms of toughness, this was a Monet. The Dragons pressured El Cerrito into 23 turnovers and 25 percent shooting (11 of 43). The 32 points allowed is the second lowest in the 29-year history of the Division III tournament.
"As skilled and deep as this team is we really have shown our toughness the last two weeks," O'Dowd coach Doug Vierra said. "It wasn't always pretty today, but we definitely showed our grit."
The Gauchos (25-8) played remarkably hard, but seemed somewhat intimidated if not by the long arms of O'Dowd, then the big, largely vacant arena with tight rims.
Kendall Jackson led O'Dowd had 11 points and Richard Longrus and Joshua Crum had eight points each for the Dragons. Jabri Jenkins had 10 points for El Cerrito, which also got a combined 18 rebounds from Eric Nelson and eight for Justin Johnson.
The victory came only two hours after Bishop O'Dowd's girls won its first title. Division IVSalesian (Richmond) 59, St. Mary's (Berkeley) 53
FOLSOM - Jabari Bird’s slam dunk on an alley oop pass with 1 minute, 20
seconds remaining was
supposed to be an exclamation point on a Salesian win. Instead, it
nearly turned into a big question mark, as in, can the Pride hold off
the St. Mary’s Panthers?
Bird, who had four fouls at the time, slammed home a dunk to give
Salesian a 54-46 lead over the Panthers.
However when Bird hung on the
rim a bit too long, the referee called the technical foul and Bird was
The technical foul allowed Isaiah Taylor to cut the Salesian lead to
54-48 with a pair of free throws.
Glenn Baral then ignited the Panther
fans with a three-point bucket that pulled his team within a possession
of tying the game.
While Dominic Artist responded with a dribble drive and a layup at the
other end, David Andoh was able to convert two free throws with 42
seconds left to cut the lead back to three points at 56-53. The two
teams traded possessions and the Panthers had a final chance to tie the
game with 17 seconds remaining.
However Baral’s three-pointer from the left side of the arc bounced off
the rim and into the hands of a Salesian rebounder. Markel Leonard was
able to sink three free throws in the final seconds to give Salesian the victory at Folsom High.
“We knew in the back of our mind that this type of game was possible,”
said Salesian coach Bill Mellis. “This is the fifth time we’ve played
this team this year and the 14th time in three seasons. You can’t play a
team that many times and expect to win big every time. So we knew it
would be a tough game.”
The win avenged Salesian’s loss to St. Mary’s in last year’s NorCal
final. The Panther victory last year prevented the Pride from getting a
chance to repeat as the Division IV state champions. However the Pride
advance to this year’s state championship game, which will be held this
weekend in Sacramento.
The Pride had their ups and downs in the game, falling behind 13-4 in
the second quarter before rallying for a 22-18 halftime lead. The game
mirrored the type of season the Pride have had.
“We said during a huddle at one point in the second half that we’ve been
through a lot tougher things than this so we knew we could pull
together and win this thing,” said Mellis, whose team had to forfeit 10
games earlier this season after Bird was found to be ineligible due to a
transfer paperwork snafu.
However it was Bird that got the Pride back into the game in the second
quarter. After he converted an alley-oop dunk to pull within in a point
of the Panthers at 15-14, Bird sank a three-pointer and the subsequent
free throw after a foul for a four-point play and an 18-15 lead.
The Pride (25-11) never trailed again, but received plenty of challenges
from the Panthers. Each time it looked like Salesian might pull away,
the Panthers (23-11) inched back into the game.
“Once we got out in the first quarter, we knew we could play with them,”
said Panther coach Manny Nodar. “Our strategy was that if they were
going to beat us, they were going to have to beat us in the halfcourt.”
St. Mary’s zone defense paid off in the first half as the Pride
struggled to hit from the field. Salesian made just one of seven
three-pointers in the first half and only converted two in the game.
However Mellis said that rebounding turned the game around for the
“We weren’t rebounding and keeping them from getting second shots,” said
Mellis. “Once we started rebounding, we could get out on the break.”
Salesian 6-foot-8 junior Freddie Tagaloa proved to be the difference on
the boards for the Pride as he snagged 10 rebounds and finished with a
double-double that included 10 points. He had several crucial baskets
down the stretch in the fourth quarter when St. Mary’s was making a run
to get back into the game.
“We needed another body on him to wear him out, and we just didn’t have that,” said Nodar.
Bird finished with 19 points to lead all scorers while Artist and
Leonard each had nine points. Taylor led St. Mary’s with 16 points while
Andoh had 14.
- Kevin AskelandDivision V
St. Joseph Notre Dame (Alameda) 61, University (San Francisco) 43
FOLSOM - In preparing his team against University, St. Joseph Notre Dame coach Don Lippi told his team "be ready to engage in fun."
The Pilots were ready, and engaged, and they certainly had fun in the early going against University as they built a 15-0 lead en route to an easy win at Folsom High.
St. Joseph Notre Dame (26-8) won its seventh NorCal championship and advances to the state finals next week in Sacramento. University finishes the season at 28-7.
The Red Devils played at a significant disadvantage due to an ankle injury four-year varsity member Noah Springwater sustained on Wednesday.
"We tried to keep it a secret and he worked real hard to get ready," said coach Randal Bessolo. "We played him off the ball and that might have backfired and led to their early run."
Springwater, who led University to a berth in last year's NorCal Division V final, finished with two points.
With the Columbia-bound standout unable to provide any outside shooting, the Red Devils shot just 25 percent in the game (15-58) including 14 percent from the three-point arc.
Meanwhile, the Pilots took advantage of their size advantage inside to gain the edge. Although they shot just 35 percent for the game, the Pilots outrebounded University 55-32.
The Red Devils, with no starter over 6-2, also couldn't match up with 6-10 Pilot senior Brendan Keane, who led all scorers with 17 points.
Nevertheless, University crept to within nine points at the end of the third period and had a three-point basket rim out that kept the lead from shrinking to six points. That's when the Pilots got back to having fun.
"I told them just to settle down and do what we do," said Lippi.
The Pilots outscored University 21-12 over the final quarter to put the game away.
Lippi's son Dominic had 16 points, eight rebounds and four three-pointers for the Pilots while Jabari Whitfield added eight points and four assists.
Harold Getz and Zio Enriquez led University with 11 points each.
- Kevin Askeland