HAYWARD, Calif. —
Cal men's basketball coach Mike Montgomery approached Salesian (Richmond, Calif.)
standout and future Bear Jabari Bird
like many other well-wishers at Cal State East Bay Saturday.
"Excuse me," Montgomery said to Bird while he was interviewed. "Can I get your autograph?"
Bird laughed and the two exchanged hand shakes.
"Man, you guys are really good," Montgomery said.
Montgomery wasn't joking.
And he wasn't just talking about Bird.
His Pride (7-1) played perhaps their best game in two years when Bay Area fans were watching most in a 72-51 win over Archbishop Mitty (San Jose)
in a battle of defending state champions in the premier game of the first Catholic Winter Classic.
Bird had 19 points and 10 rebounds in an almost even battle with two-time Metro Player of the Year Aaron Gordon
(18 points, 10 rebounds), but Salesian's supporting case was far superior on this night.
Salesian trailed 9-2 to start but behind Bird, Montana-bound guard Mario Dunn
(15 points), Jermaine Edmonds Jr.
(13) and Sean O'Neal
(10), the Pride led 31-19 by halftime.
Then they put on the after burners utilizing waves of speed and depth to go on runs of 12-0 and 24-2 to open the second half to take a 53-25 lead.
Mitty (3-2), which looked tired despite eight days off, rattled off 11 straight points to get within 20, but this was the worst defeat in coach Tim Kennedy's four-year era. That's the same time Gordon has been at Mitty as well.
"We definitely came out flat and that's on me," Kennedy said. "Lots of that has to do with who we played. That's a very deep and talented team but we didn't accomplish our No. 1 goal — dribble penetration. They exploited it.
"Good news for us is we might get a chance to see them again."
With the new CIF Open Division format, indeed these two Bay Area powers could see each other in the postseason.
Both were nationally ranked to start the season — Salesian at No. 10 and Mitty at 12. The Pride dropped out of the national rankings following a loss to Bullard, but now will surely return.
"It was a big game, but it's only December," Dunn said. "We could definitely see them again, but today we're feeling very good."
Mitty was feeling good up 9-2 early as Gordon, a 6-8 post, was guarding the 6-6 shooting guard Bird and and forced him into a couple turnovers.
The uncommitted Gordon is the No. 5 recruit in the nation
and Bird is No. 25.
The Pride then went to Dunn, a high-flying 6-foot guard who drove to the hoop for three quick buckets, leading a 12-0 run to close the first quarter and take a 14-9 lead it would never relinquish.
"Aaron told me all summer he was going to take me and he put it on me early," Bird said. "But I got to the free throw a couple times and got a couple easy ones and then everyone got involved. It was a great win."