Northern California section final action from Saturday.
NORTH COAST SECTION
De La Salle (Concord) 40, Newark Memorial 37
They might have just been throwing haymakers.
About midway through the fourth quarter, after a missed Newark Memorial free throw, the ball went up and - no kidding - it was a full bore, full-on cat brawl for the ball. Elbows flew. Hips checked. Players yelled. The 3,000 fans jammed into McKeon Pavilion screamed.
The ball eventually got knocked out of bounds to Newark, which couldn't convert on the ensuing possession.
It absolutely set the tone for a bitterly-fought, intense, low-scoring showdown between two of the state's top 12 teams.
In the end, De Salle Salle showed more productivity down low and yet took control with a couple long-range shots to capture its eighth NCS title and a little payback to boot.
"It was a good, hard-nosed game on both sides," Newark Memorial coach Craig Ashmore said. "We missed some free throws. We missed some lay-ups. You can't do that and expect to beat a team like that."
De La Salle's two big men, 6-foot-9 Santa Clara-bound John McArthur had 14 points and seven rebounds and Chico State-bound Nate Appel, a 6-8 forward, added 11 points, seven rebounds and seven assists as the Spartans (27-2) won their 18th straight game and ended Newark Memorial's 12-game win streak.
The Cougars (27-4) got 10 points and nine rebounds from Kendall Andrews and eight by Casey Norris, but they couldn't overcome a 7-of-17 effort from the free-throw line, where De La Salle was 13-for-16.
Newark Memorial defeated the host Spartans 39-33 in last year's NCS semifinals, ending a season that was supposed to end in the state finals for De La Salle.
"That was one, if not the lowest moment I've had in basketball," McArthur said. "This is one of the best. That's one fo the most physical teams in the state and our mentality was to match them on the boards and up front. I think we did that."
The 240-pound McArthur surely had the markings to prove it. He had a small gash in the bridge of his nose and a couple scratches on his chiseled arms.
As much as De La Salle's interior game was key, it was a couple of 3-pointers that gave the Spartans control.
A 3-pointer by Duke DaRe gave the Spartans a 27-22 with 28.4 seconds left in the third and another by Carlos Monroy with 5:20 left, made it 32-26.
Newark kept battling, but it never got within the final margin the rest of the way.
The good news is that Newark - and the top four teams in most divisions - advance to next week's CIF North Region tournament.
"How often do you get to experience a disappointing loss like this and still move on," Ashmore said. "Hopefully we'll learn from this."
Appel and McArthur said they sure learned a lot from being stunned by Newark Memorial last season, and an early league loss to San Ramon Valley at home. Since then, the Spartans haven't lost and improved in all areas.
Appel, who always seems to come up with the key loose ball or 3-pointer or free throw, is one of the most improved players in the program, if not the Bay Area. He's no longer just known as the "little" brother of Stanford All-American Jayne Appel.
"It's all been a process with this team," Appel said. "We've all learned to play together and fight through adversity."
On Saturday, they just had to fight period.
St. Mary's (Berkeley) 52, Salesian (Richmond) 49
It was bound to happen.
St. Mary's (23-9), a talented defensive squad that has lost numerous close games throughout the season, has put it all together at the right time.
On Saturday the Panthers defeated the defending state champion Salesian Pride (30-2),at St. Mary's College.
It was the fourth meeting of the year for the Bay Shore Athletic League rivals and first St. Mary's victory, breaking Salesian's 20-game win streak. It also broke a seven-game losing streak to the Pride over three seasons.
The Panthers got a spirited effort all-around, especially down low where they were giving up a lot of height to 6-8 Washington bound Desmond Simmons and 6-9 sophomore Freddie Tagaloa.
But St. Mary's responded with tenacious interior play from 6-4 twins Demetrius Lee (12 points and 10 rebounds) and Utah-bound Dominique Lee (11 points and seven rebounds).
Justin Pollard (12 points, eight rebounds), a 5-10 senior, also came off the bench to connect on seven of nine free throws and boy did the Panthers need that. They were just 13 of 30 from the line, meaning the rest of the squad was 6-for-21.
Honestly, this was a game they probably should have won by double digits with just average foul shooting.
"We'll take it however we can," Demetrius said. "But we could have made it easier on ourselves."
Salesian fought back from a 42-32 deficit to start the fourth quarter behind sophomore guard Dominic Artiss (11 points) and the interior work of Simmons and Tagaloa, who had 13 points each.
The Pride, however, simply couldn't get over the hump.
"We've won a lot of games like tonight, turning it on late," Salesian coach Bill Mellis said. "Tonight it came back to burn us.
"They had a better plan, we got out-coached, out-played and out-rebounded. They deserved to win."
Down 38-30 with 4:43 to play, Tagaloa, a 280-pound giant, started a 6-0 run with a 3-point play, cutting the lead to 47-44 with 2:41 left. The Pride eventually cut it to 50-49 with 9.7 seconds left on a putback by Mario Dunn, but Pollard made two free throws with 8.5 seconds left.
Simmons off-balance 3-pointer with two seconds left hit the backboard and rim and Salesian couldn't secure the rebound. The final horn sounded and despite make just 13 of 30 free throws, St. Mary's had prevailed.
Demetrius Lee led the second-half charge, scoring all 12 of his points after intermission.
"At halftime I thought I wasn't doing enough," he said. "I felt I needed to do a little more. We all did. They beat seven times in a row. It feels great to get one on them, but we know we'll probably play them again. We'll enjoy it tonight but know we have to play even better."
When Mellis was asked if his team had trouble getting up after three previous wins over St. Mary's this season, he said: "No, this is a rivalry game. This is for the NCS title. No excuses at all."
Branson (Ross) 48, St. Joseph Notre Dame (Alameda) 35
Branson won its sixth straight NCS title and second in a row over St. Joseph but this one was clearly different.
The Bulls came into this one at Albany High School the heavy underdog.
St. Joseph, the defending Northern California champion, had size and experience on their side, but they were throttled by Branson's 3-point shooting and area-famous defense.
Kenny Rabin drilled a 3-pointer to start the game and the Bulls (22-6), the third seed, never trailed. They led 33-14 at halftime and unlike last season when they let a large lead slip away against the Pilots, this time they never let up.
Adam Boone and Gabe Moynihan led Branson with 12 points apiece, all on 3-pointers. John Konstin, a 5-10 forward, added nine points, 12 rebounds and much of the work on St. Joseph 6-10 post Brandon Keane, who had 14 points but just four rebounds.
Jacari Whitfield led all scorers with 17 points for St. Joseph (25-8), but 10 came in the fourth quarter. Whitfield and Keane accounted for all but four of the Pilots' points.
Berkeley 62, Deer Valley (Antioch) 42
Already down star junior forward Chairese Culberson, out for the year with a torn ACL, the the top-seeded Yellowjackets (26-3) gasped when point guard Brittany Boyd, one of the state's top juniors, twisted her already tweaked right ankle midway throught the second quarter at St. Mary's College.
Boyd screamed out in pain and laid near midcourt during a timeout. She finally rose quickly to her feet and limped quickly to the bench.
While most Berkeley fans probably thought "oh no," Boyd had only one thought.
"I have to get back on the floor," she said. "It hurt for sure, but I had to help our team to victory."
Boyd rested the final 3:58 of the half, but came to to lead Berkeley to its 20th NCS championship. She led all scorers with 18 points, Ashley Webster added 15 and Garysha Youngblood.
Raven Fox, a 5-8 junior led Deer Valley with 15 points but the Wolverines never overcame a 14-1 Berkeley run to end the first quarter. When Berkeley scored 12 of the first 15 to start the second quarter, this one was essentially over.
Even with Boyd gimping around.
"We're doing it all for Chairese," Boyd said. "We we're winning for her on the court because she can't be out there."
Most thought the Yellowjackets are talented enough to challenge four-time defending state champion Long Beach Poly before Culbertson's injury. Not anymore.
"We don't want to just get to the state finals," she said. "We want to win and we think we can."
Carondelet (Concord) 83, Northgate (Walnut Creek) 41
Never has a NCS championship team ever looked liked it just lost at the buzzer.
Teary-eyed, somber, silent, Carondelet's players accepted championship-winning medals half-heartedly because their leader in scoring and spirit had gone down in a vicious collision just 10 or 15 minutes earlier at St. Mary's College.
After erupting for 24 points including six 3-pointers, Santa Clara-bound 5-foot-10 senior guard Ricki Radanovich was tackled on a semi-breakaway layup by a Northgate reserve.
The player, just inserted a couple minutes early, definitely was going for the ball as both players were sprinted to the basket. She hacked down on Radanovch's arm, both crashed violently into a hard but padded basket support underneath the hoop.
The large crowd groaned and went silent and Radanovich screamed in pain. She sustained two broken bones in her right forearm (her shooting arm) and according to the Contra Costa Times, underwent surgery Saturday night at John Muir Medical center.
"It was completely disfigured," Carondelet coach Margaret Gartner said. "It made me naseous. I told Ricki not to look."
What made it more stomach-turning was Carondelet was up 74-41 with 3 minutes, 41 seconds remaining when the foul occurred. .
Northgate had cleared its bench about a minute earlier. Five Carondelet reserves were siting at the scorer's table ready to go in.
Why were the Cougars' starters still in?
"It was a championship game," Gartner said. "We were stalling. It was a layup or a setup. She had a layup so she was taking it."
The injury spoiled an otherwise spotless game for the Cougars (24-5), who absolutely dominated the Bay Area's No. 7 team, in particular Erica Payne. The 6-2 junior was as dominate as Carondelet with 29 points, 15 rebounds, five assists, four blocks and three steals.
New Mexico State-bound 6-3 post Erin Boettcher added 12 points and 11 rebounds as the Cougars used their superior size to control the inside, then relied on the Radanovich's lights-out shooting - she has more than 90 3-pointers this year and is the school's career leader - to win going away against the second-seeded Broncos (25-4), who got 10 points from Tess Soper.
It was the third straight title for the Cougars and sixth in seven years.
Most people had Carondelet penciled into the NorCal final against Archbishop Mitty. But now that road got considerably harder.
"We're all just going to have to pick it up," Payne said when asked how the Cougars will respond without Radanovich. "One percent here, five percent there. It's not going to easy. Ricki plays a huge role on the team. She's our scorer, our leader. I'll try to shoulder the burden but we all have to step up."
St. Mary's (Berkeley) 53, McKinleyville 47
The top-seeded Panthers (28-3) definitely had to earn this one as they took their first lead on a steal and bucket from St. Mary's College-bound Danielle Mauldin with 4:03 remaining.
McKinleyville (27-3), the second seed, was in control most of the way behind Washington State-bound Sage Romberg, but Mauldin (18 points, 14 rebounds) and her sophomore sister (13 points) eventually took over giving the Panthers their second straight crown.
Branson (Ross) 39, Head-Royce (Oakland) 38
At Albany High School, Ally Warson made two free throws with six secondsleft to give Branson its sixth straight and 10th NCS title
This was a close game throughout as no team led by more than five.
Jenna Harris led Branson (18-13) with 15 points, including a bucket and two free throws down the stretch. Hillary Streeter also had 15 points for Head-Royce (27-5), which was after its third NCS title. The other titles came in 1990 and 2000.
CENTRAL COAST SECTION
At Leavey Center, Santa Clara University
Bellarmine (San Jose) 58, Serra (San Mateo) 57
They'll be talking about this game for years to come as Max Fodor, a 6-9 center, made a shot that bounced around the rim seemingly forever before dropping through with 0.7 seconds left giving the Bells (24-5) the victory.
Serra took its first lead since the first quarter 56-55 on a 3-pointer by Ryan Tana with 23 seconds left before Fodor's heroics. The play was set up by Kristoffer Olugbode (nine points, six assists).
Tana had one last look, a 15-footer, but it didn't drop and the top-seed Padres (24-6) fell short. Tana led the way with 18 points and eight rebounds.
Madu Cole had 20 points for the Bells, who won their third straight CCS title. Fodor added 10. Connor McGrath had 15 points and Jake Moore added 13 for Serra.
Sacred Heart Cathedral (San Francisco) 57, Burlingame 30
The defending state champions, who lost almost its entire title team to graduation, showed their grit with a remarkably convincing title-game victory
The Irish (14-14) set the tone with an 18-3 run to open the game. They would breeze from there behind Jamal Ford (14 points, five rebounds), Karl Reyes (13 points) and Marin Polan (10 points).
Rodrigo Pulicemo had 12 points for Burlingame (21-9), which managed just 16 points through three quarters.
Joshua Fox had seven rebounds and Zachary Tapel eight points and four assists for the winners.
St. Francis (Watsonville) 45, Pinewood (Los Altos Hills) 43
Shayne Perryman had 21 points and Robby Gibbs nine points and six rebounds leading St. Francis (28-1) to its first CCS title. Max Lippe had 14 points and 13 rebounds for Pinewood (19-7).
North Salinas (Salinas) 51, Menlo-Atherton (Atherton) 31
Alyssa Ayala had 16 points and eight rebounds and Amy Wood added 12 points and Jasmin Rowland 12 rebounds as top-seed North Salinas (24-3) used a 31-15 run in the second half to win going away.
Tennyson Jellins had 10 points and 17 rebounds for Menlo-Atherton, the 10th seed.
Valley Christian (San Jose) 40, St. Ignatius (San Francisco) 37
Junior Jazmine Davis had 14 points and San Jose State-bound A.J. Newton 13 points as Valley Christian (22-6) used a 13-8 run in the fourth quarter to defeat its West Catholic Athletic League rival.
Davis scored nine of her points in the fourth quarter on three 3s, the last won giving Valley Christian a 38-36 lead.
Eilise O'Connor, the WCAL MVP, had 17 points for St. Ignatius (19-9) and teammate Caroline Barrack added 15 rebounds.
Pinewood (Los Altos Hills) 53, Castilleja (Palo Alto) 32
Jenna McLoughlin had 15 points and Miranda Seto and Emily Llang added 10 apiece as Pinewood won its 11th CCS title in 12 seasons.
Pinewood (23-6) scored the game's first 21 points and never looked back. Eve Zellinger had 15 points for Castilleja (19-9).
Sheldon (Sacramento) 78, Franklin (Elk Grove) 72
According to the Sacramento Bee, 6-6 swingman Darius Nelson had 29 points and D'Erryl Williams added 13 points, 13 rebounds and three blocks as sixth-seeded Sheldon (26-5) won going away.
Anthony King had 20 points and brothers Chuck and Ike Iroegbu combined for 32 points for Franklin (26-5)
Woodcreek (Roseville) 45, Oakmont (Roseville) 44
Mike Kurtz, a 6-foot-11 post, had 10 points, 13 rebounds and seven blocks as Woodcreek (26-5) won this battle of league and cross-town rivals rivals and very good friends.
Woodcreek fought back from deficits of 10-0 and 18-11 to prevail thanks also to three fourth-quarter 3-pointers by senior guard Nike Milani, who finished with 16 points and five rebounds. His last 3-pointer gave his team its first lead, 42-41 with 2;20 remaining.
Alex Ford had 15 points for Oakmont (22-7).
Modesto Christian (Modesto) 88, Colfax 80
The same kid who led the Crusaders to a state small-school football title, led them to their 11th consecutive SJS basketball crown.
Isaiah Burse, the quarterback on the football team who has a full football ride to Fresno State, had 29 points according to the Modesto Bee in an entertaining but foul-filled championship win. In some ways it was an unlikely title after starting the season 5-8, including four straight losses in its own tournament.
Modesto Christian (22-8) has now won 17 straight games. The Crusaders got 15 points from Anthony Pratt, 12 by Derek Evans and Ryan Riner 10.
Ryan Sammonson, a 6-9 post, had 16 points and 14 rebounds for Colfax (26-5) but fouled out with 3:30 left.
Oak Ridge (El Dorado Hills) 64, Kennedy (Sacramento) 50
All-American guard Sara James went scoreless the first half but scored 12 of her 15 points in the third quarter as Oak Ridge (28-3) won for the 28th time in 29 games.
Oak Ridge, which won its fourth section crown, showed it was far from the James show, as four scored in double-digits including leading scorer Caitlin Welsch (17 points).
Kennedy, one of the best-coached teams in Northern California, dropped to 27-4.
Vallejo 67, St. Francis (Sacramento) 64
Ashley Moore, a senior guard, had 32 points including a key free throw late as Vallejo (25-8) scored the last six points of the game to upset the top-seeded Troubadours (22-8).
Jolise Limcaco, a 5-6 junior guard, led St. Francis with 23 points and nine rebounds.
Modesto Christian 64, Argonaut (Jackson) 39
The magnificent Brandi Henton, a Long Beach State-signee, was magnificent again, scoring 23 points and playing fantastic defense leading Modesto Christian (27-4) to a decisive victory over previously undefeated Argonaut (30-1)
It was the third SJS title for Modesto Christian with Henton around.
According to the Modesto Bee, the Crusaders had leads of 18-1 and 30-5 in the first half while breezing to victory. Danielle Thompson and Taryn Garza combined for 30 points and 17 rebounds for the winners.
Lauren Godde, a 6-1 senior, had 18 points and 12 rebounds for Argonaut, who had won all 30 games this season by 12 points or more.